Iran Intensifies Diplomatic Activity in Caucasus, Region

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday criticized the West and NATO for intervening in the Caucasus and called for an expansion of relations between the country’s of the region to guarantee the peace and stability of the Caucasus.

Ahmadinejad’s remarks came during talks in Tehran with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

"There is no need for NATO intervention in the Caucasus region, Ahmadinejad said, adding that
“experience has shown that the Western countries’ intervention in regional conflicts will make the situation worse.”

Nalbandian was in Tehran for a two day visit that began Tuesday with meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. Mottaki’s meeting with Nalbandian ended a series of diplomatic talks on the situation in the Caucasus held with the region’s leadership, Irna Agency reported.

Mottaki had spent last weekend darting across the region, meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev for discussions on a range of bilateral issues, as well as the conflict in Georgia and the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. He also met with his German counterpart in Berlin Monday for talks on Iran’s developing nuclear program, an issue which Tehran needs Moscow’s help in seeing through.

Calling Nalbandian’s visit to Tehran a “good opportunity to complete the chain of talks,” he had in Russia, and Azerbaijan, Mottaki told reporters during a joint press conference after the meeting that Iran is ready to mediate between neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "Iran and Armenia’share common concerns and stances on regional developmen’s" he told reporters.

Tehran has long maintained its willingness to take on a greater role in mediating for a settlement of the conflict. Iran made a short-lived effort in March-May 1992 to mediate between the Nagorno-Karabakh defense forces and Azerbaijan. A cease-fire between the conflicting sides was reached following two high level meetings in Tehran, but it only lasted days.

Since 1992, the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by the United States, Russia, and France, has been the dominant international framework operating to maintain stability in the region and mediating for a lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

But the region has been stuck in a diplomatic vacuum since Russia’s resurgence in the region following its military defeat of Georgian forces in August and its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Since the Georgian conflict, Turkey has been taking the lead in enhancing its influence in the region, signaling a thaw in relations with Armenia and pushing for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation platform to manage the so called frozen conflicts in the Caucasus.

Druing talks in Baku, Mottaki and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev called for an expansion of mutual cooperation to help reinforce security and stability in the region.

"Cooperation among regional countries will turn the region into one of the largest and most secure energy zones in the world," Aliyev said.

Meanwhile, Mottaki said Iran was satisfied with the growing cooperation between the two neighbors in energy, trade, and transportation.

During Tuesday’s meeting in Tehran, Mottaki and Nalbandian exchanged their countries’ views on the latest developmen’s in the Caucasus and discussed possible solutions to the crisis in the Caucasus.

Nalbandian, who said he was satisfied with the outcome of the talks, echoed Yerevan’s position that the current regional crisis must be solved through peaceful negotiations.

The Armenian foreign minister noted that Iran has very interesting ideas and proposals, adding Yerevan and Tehran’share the same position on the conflict in Georgia and will keep talking about regional security and stability.

Nalbandian said Iran has very interesting ideas and proposals, adding Yerevan would keep talking with Tehran about regional security and stability,

Mottaki said that he paid separate visits to Russia, Azerbaijan and Germany. “The current visit by the Armenian Foreign Minister is a good opportunity to complete the chain of talks.”

Mottaki said the two ministers also discussed the promotion of Tehran-Yerevan relations in their meeting.

Iran’s top diplomat added that Nalbandian’s visit to Tehran gives Iran the chance to participate in the region as a stabilizing force, easing tensions in the volatile South Caucasus.

The Caucasus region can allow for the convergence of interests, but developmen’s during During Tuesday’s meeting in Tehran, Mottaki and Nalbandian exchanged their countries’ views on the latest developmen’s in the Caucasus and discussed possible solutions to the crisis in the Caucasus, brought on by Georgia’s ill-fated attempt to forcefully bring South Ossetia under Tbilisi’s control.

The developmen’s in the past month have caused many problems for the region, Mottaki remarked, adding that Iran, as a neighbor to this sensitive region, has presented a proposal for regional countries to work together and draw up strategies for strategic cooperation.

He also voiced official Yerevan’s support for Tehran’s detente diplomacy stressing that Armenia would always welcome sustainable peace in the region.

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