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Mediation in the Karabakh Dispute
January 2008

Dr. Mahmoud Vaezi

Foreign Policy Department/ Eurasia Studies Group

Political Economy

Article Series( No.0)

Mediation in the Karabakh Dispute

Dr. Mahmood Vaezi

Vice-President of the Center for Strategic Research

and Head of Foreign Policy Research

I- The Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran toward the Caucasus

The history of the relationship between Iran and the Caucasus is one of subjugation and rebellion, coupled with the search of other paths facing Iran.

Until before the beginning of the rule of Qajar's dynasty, the Caucuses Region was subject to the Iranian Court. All the kings and rulers of this region were appointed and dismissed by the king of Iran. In this period of Iranian history, under Safavid, Afsharid and Zand dynasties, Iranian sovereignty over the Caucasus were undeniable and unchallenged.

The Ottoman government, even with its great interest in the Caucasus, could not undermine this sovereignty. Russia, however, was expanding as a regional power. Although the new developments and the growth of Russian power tempted local rulers to free themselves from Iranian sovereignty and thus paying tribute to Iran, at the end of this period of history, harsh reaction and repressive policy of local rulers in the Caucasus and, particularly in Georgia, entailed outcomes contrary to what Iranian rulers might have expected. The decline of power and consolidation of Iranian presence derived from weakening political power in Iran rather than Russia's efforts to conquer the Caucasus. In fact, local rulers in the different parts of the Caucasus, depending on the political weight and credit accorded to the dominant power obeyed Iranian rule and paid tribute to it.

However, the first and second wars between Iran and Russia, in 1813 and 1828, totally transformed the regional situation and the traditional Iranian presence and influence, which was a factor contributing regional stability and peace, was removed from the region. However, cultural — ethnic relations

and dependencies developed during Iranian sovereignty and

authority in the Caucasus still continued. While maintaining

good relations with the Muslims inhabiting the Caucasus,

relations with Armenians and Georgians continued on the

bedrock of the mutual favorable opinion, frequentations and

long residence. Armenians living in the north and south of Iran

were among quiet ethnic groups under Iranian sovereignty

and Georgians whose number was very little integrated into the

Iranian society.

However, in examining Iranian political power in the region, in

no period as the last years of Qajar rule did the region witness such political neglect. Nations in the Caucasus including Muslims, Armenians and Georgians pioneered in the

reform movements in the early 20th century in Russian Empire.

They promoted the idea of modernism along with many other European ideals, which brought about major transformations in the early years of this century in Iran during the constitution movement

derived from the events occurred in the Caucasus.

The First World War compounded previous situation for

Iran. Intentions and goals held by the Ottoman Empire with the

coming to power of Young Turks were not only oriented towards

the Caucasus. Rather, they included great parts of the northwestern

territories of Iran. Russians created a major

vacuum in the region by their short — term withdrawal.

Political - military pressures exerted by the Ottoman Empire on

Armenians and the drawing of conflicts into the sphere of

differences between Muslims and Armenians in the Caucasus

had relatively strong political and social influences within Iran.

Iranian society tends to favor Muslims, naturally, due to its

religious ties. However, at that period an intelligent insight prevented the adverse impact of these developments on Iranian society.

This inference that the developments of the regions situated

beyond our borders should not hurt the security of all people,

including Muslims and Armenians within Iranian borders, and influence internal social relations, was a principle observed by the government and religious clerics.

This political orientation had been taken up, despite the

assistance made by people to Muslims inhabiting the Caucasus.

But political understanding of the related adverse influence on

Iranian society the unity of which had remained intact due to

the longstanding coexistence of different peoples and clans was

to such an extent that the two sides (government and religious

scholars on one hand and Armenians inhabiting Iran on the

other hand) were led to this conclusion that they should prevent from spilling over of the development in Caucasus into

the Iranian borders. Iranian Azeris were strongly impressed

when the situation in Caucasus deteriorated and Muslims and

Armenians confronted violently each other over the disputed

regions of Karabakh and Zangezur. But, in this case one of the

Muslim religious leaders was working hard to protect Armenians.

This behavior annoyed Caucasian people and the newspapers

slandered him. Also, Armenians treated Muslim community intelligently, due to the fact that they were in minority and fully understood the sensitivities existing among Muslims.

If we consider internal situation in Iran in that period, we

see that the decline of political power, particularly during the

last years of Qajar dynasty rule had made it very difficult to

provide security throughout the country and even in capital,

the political behavior of rulers and local clerics in Azerbaijan

province of Iran appears very wisely. Furthermore, Young

Turks regions would have benefited politically if the situation

in Iranian regions neighboring the Caucasus had worsened.

Iranian behavior during a half decade of turbulent situation

governing the Caucasus from 1917 to 1922, which determined

the destiny of its people and its political geography, was based

on pure observation.[1] In fact, what hampered Iran's influence

on the region was the lack of a coherent central power and a

plan for pursuing its goals in the Caucasus.

One of the adverse efforts of the lack of a wise central power

in Iran stemmed from the events in a territory which later in

1918 called Azerbaijan. This territory which called Albania,

Aran or Eran, according to various historians and experts from different nationalities was only named Azerbaijan when a

government called Musavat was established in the Caucasus.[2]

This move was prompted by the time. This action by Musarat

government was the result of a kind of consciously political

calculations rather than showing historical ignorance.[3] This

option for a territory situated beyond real and historical

Azerbaijan which is placed within Iranian borders, created

various problems for Iran in later years.

During near 70 years of Soviet rule over all the Caucasus, this

region experienced an apparent stability and peace without

bloodletting and coerced exiles. All the three countries in the

Caucasus became apparently independent republics and the

Soviet Republic of Trans Caucasus, which was not a successful

experiment, before joining the Soviet Union, disappeared.

However, political - social challenges within the Soviet

system and continued in the Caucasus amid covert and

intrasystemic confrontations. As for Karabakh conflict,

Armenians who hardly had accepted its new situation in 1923

were seeking an opportunity to change it in the framework of the

Soviet regime. These challenges, which had intrasystemic

nature, continued.

The problem of nationalities was a dilemma which could not

be solved by the Tzarist regime. As studied in the first part of the

third chapter, the Soviet leadership’s policies towards nationalities,

the Soviet system, could not solve this problem despite various

political, social and economic preparations supported by

Marxist theoretical advantages. Various nationalities in the

Soviet Union not only didn't integrate into the Soviet system,

but also entered the post - Soviet era with their own

independent idea, historical feeling and identity.

The collapse of the Soviet Union brought about two

developments in the Caucasus from security and strategic

dimensions. First, an essential vacuum of power created in the

region derived from the disruption in the order of main system

that was the Soviet Union.[4] Second, the situation

potentially contained national confrontations and hostilities,

which could be a threat for the national security of Iran in the

future. To

understand better Iranian behavior in the new era, first it is necessary that

the importance of region for Iran and the importance of Iran for

the region are examined.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran tried to enter into

the region through establishing direct contact with the

Caucasus nations and to obtain sustainable

presence and influence in this region. To this end, Iran

recognized new independent states including three countries

situated in the Caucasus in its first move after the collapse of

the Soviet Union. The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Islamic

Republic of Iran began to establish its diplomatic

representatives in these countries immediately after that they

declared their independence.

Efforts made by Iran were carried out under completely

different situation. Iran was no longer preoccupied with

internal affairs and enjoyed a period of political unity and

coherence. A united political authority allowed Iran to play an effective

role in the scene of regional developments. The Caucasus region was

important for Iran in several respects.

1- Security Perspective

The Soviet regime was considered a threat for Iran from

the standpoint of security. Iran had been threatened with occupation and has been occupied two times during its history from its

northern borders. In the first case, in 1813 and 1828, Iran lost

its Caucasian territories and in the second case (1941 to 1945)

threats by its northern neighbor directed at Azerbaijan

province. Now, with the collapse of the Soviet, the threat by

Russia pushed back beyond of Caucasus Mountains and this was viewed as a strategic and security advantage for Iran. The

existence of the Karabakh Dispute within the borders between Iran and

Azerbaijan has introduced a new factor in security

considerations of Iran.

2- Regional Political Perspective

Establishing relations and trying to play a political role in

the region could create a political advantage based on increasing Iranian

presence and influence in these countries. The collapse of the

Soviet Union was welcomed in Iran and was considered an

opportunity for consolidating relations with the countries

situated in the buffer zone separating Iran from Russia, as well as

a chance to increase its presence in the other republics of Central Asia and

the Caucasus. The Caucasus had been always important for

Iran, but after the independence of three new countries in the

Caucasus and developments after the Cold war,

the importance of this region has been increased, to the extent

that some experts have called the Caucasus the geopolitical

complementary of Iran. Stability and security of these republics

in the period after independence is important for regional

countries and Iran. Iran itself believes that its interests have direct relation

with the stability of the Caucasian countries.

In fact, reaching this goal was itself valuable and could be a

compensation for past events when the regimes

governing Iran were only watching developments taking place beyond their borders with mere indifference. This perspective, in addition to meet Iranian

political interests, could neutralize political - security plots

against Iranian national security. On the other hand, this

perspective could enhance Iran's position in regional power


3-Economic Perspective

The Iranian economy is complementary with that of Caucasian

republics; they could cooperate with each other in oil and gas.

The Caucasus is one of the North/ South transit axes and is considered one of the arteries for transportation

and transfer of energy to Europe. The Caucasian transit route

to Europe has more comparative advantage for Iran versus the

traditional route passing Turkey. This route makes Iran closer

to some European markets reducing its distance about 1000km .

Economic development and prosperity in the Caucasus countries

are consistent with regional economic policies, and this would

be a good news for Iran. Iran believes that economic prosperity

in these countries will create a new market for Iranian

companies .

4- Cultural Perspective

Iran enjoys good situation in this region due to its historical

background. Azeris, Armenians, and Georgians are familiar

with Iran and its culture, and are interested in Iranian culture.

Furthermore, the second Shiite nation in the world is

Azerbaijan and the close relationship between the two nations of

Iran and Azerbaijan could further their mutual interests.

5- Importance of Iran for the Caucasian Countries

One of the commonalities of these three countries in their

attitudes towards Iran is their political outlook and taking

balance into account in their foreign relations. All of them try to

diversify their foreign supporters to reduce their dependence to

Russia through developing their relations with influential

countries particularly regional countries. This was agreeable to Iran and other regional countries in the initial period of


On the other hand, Iran is a bridgehead for these countries

to have access to the Persian Gulf and Middle East. Although

the beginning of political - social turbulences in these countries severely

transformed these approaches and forced them to take onother obligations, these perspectives were potentially

maintained in these countries and provided a base for mid -

term cooperation.

The Islamic Republic of Iran serves as the main link between

the Caucasian countries and the Persian Gulf and Middle East.

Transit routes of Iran link the Caucasus to the rest of the Asian

countries. Existing facilities in Iran are one of the complementary

factors of infrastructure needed for the economic development of

regional countries, in which energy is one of the most important issues. For Azerbaijan which is a producer of

oil and gas, the transfer of energy to consumption markets is

very important. The Iranian route, compared with alternative

routes, is one of the most secure, short and economically advantageous routes for

transferring oil . Also, until the construction of a pipelines, the

SWAP program could be implemented for internal consumption.

For energy consuming countries such as Armenia and Georgia,

Iranian oil and gas are a good advantage.

II- The Karabakh Dispute before Iran’s Mediation

1- Crisis of Karabakh before the Process of Mediations

As said in previous chapters, the Crisis of Karabakh had

embarrassed Moscow's government. Armenians and Azeris alike

expected Moscow's authorities to settle the crisis of Karabakh

based on their respective demands. With the independence

of the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, the crisis of

Karabakh entered into a new phase of developments. After the

independence of the two Azeri and Armenian nations, they

expected that their fledgling states met all their historical

demands regarding the problem of Karabakh; at the same time

political groups complicated the situation by giving unrealizable

promises aimed at bringing them to power. The problem of Karabakh

in both countries gained such an importance that the survival

of the governments had a direct relation with its success and

failure regarding this problem.

In the spring of 1988, when the first marches and

demonstrations began in Stepanakert, nothingsuggested that after four years the region would witness

bloody disputes between Azeris and Armenians leading to the

displacement of so many people and the abandonment of Azeri

populated villages and cause serious changes in the

demographic situation of Karabakh due to the flow of refuges

from these one republic to the other republic.

Since September 1991, Azerbaijan besieged Karabakh and

cut its connection with the outside by closing roads and

railroads. In early November of the year, Karabakh's

telecommunications were also cut. The main goal of Azerbaijan

was to capture Stepanakert.

In early 1992, Karabakh forces began a new round of their

attacks on Azeri's positions. Azerbaijan dominated Shousha,

the second large and important city of Karabakh, and from

there they could fire on the capital of Karabakh enjoying the benefit

of its higher position than Stepanakert. One of the strategic

objectives of Karabakh was to capture Shousha and to make

Stepanakert out of the reach of Azerbaijan's artillery. A more

strategic objective of Karabakh was to capture Lachin outside of

the autonomous region and in the halfway of the road leading to

Armenia. Until this time, Karabakh was supported and fed by

Armenian cargo and combat helicopters. Karabakh tried to

open a ground route to Armenia to meet its old wish:connecting to Armenia while breaking its siege.

In early February, Azeri forces began their attacks on the

two fronts : Asgaran and Martakert . While fighting continued

in these fronts, Armenian forces captured some of the villages

of Stepanakert which was the place of Azerbaijani forces'

concentration. Since November 1991, when sporadic disputes

began, some important points shifted into hands

several times, but, in general, Armenian forces had complete

superiority. At the same time, another battle was under way in

Baku between people Front and President Motallebev's.

Motallebov's position was increasingly weakened due to the

frequent defeats in war fronts. Principally, due to the nature of

Karabakh war, most of Azeri forces consisted of volunteers and

civilians. The People Front was one of the major organizers of this

public mobilization in Azerbaijan. The People Front also had an

important role in victories and defeats in war because they sent its

supporters to the in war fronts, forcing them to resign if they refused.

a) Political Consequences of Khowai’s Fall:

In large demonstrations took place during the first week of

February in Baku, the resignation of Mehdior, minister of

defense in Motallebor's cabinet was one of the essential

demands of their organizers which was accepted by the

President and the minister of defense was deposed after a

week.[5] Such political disputes in Baku lowered the spirit of

Azeri forces in fronts on the one hand and prompted Armenian

forces to exploit fully the opportunity resulted from differences

in Baku. In these circumstances, Armenian forces prepared

another attack and at the dawn of February 26, they

surrounded Khoujali and wanted the surrender of Azeri forces.

In Khoujali which was one of the most important military bases

of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces surrendered the city.

The fall of Khoujali began a new period in Karabakh's crisis

and was considered a turning point for Azerbaijan and regional

foreign relations and in terms of internal political

developments. With the fall of Khoujali, the government of

Ayyaz Motallebov was also placed on the verge of collapse.

After several days of demonstrations and negotiations, finally,

on March 6, 1992, the first president of Azerbaijan and former

leader of its Communist Party resigned. A council consisting of

Hassan Hassanov, prime minister, People Front leaders, under

the supervision of Yaghoob Mohammadov, head of High Council

of Azerbaijan came to power as a caretaker president. This

council should have implemented the tasks of government until

the formation of a coalition government with the membership of

Communist Party and People Front.[6] The most important point

in the internal politics arena was that Karabakh and political

groups in Azerbaijan tested the first impact of Karabakh

developments on the internal and political situation of

Azerbaijan in the form of the fall of Khoujali leading to the

change of government in Baku.

From foreign relations point of view, the event of Khoujaloo

gave a regional dimension to the crisis of Karabakh due to the

numbers of victims and refugees and created an opportunity for

some regional and trans-regional powers to play some role in

the developments of the Caucasus. Before these developments,

all developments in the Caucasus had been under the control of

Russia and there had been no connection between foreign

countries and regional and international organizations. After

the event of Khoujali, the UN, EU, Turkey and Iran each with

their own objectives and policies began their activities focusing

on Karabakh issue.

Iran, which was so preoccupied with its own problems since

19th century after the war between Iran and Russia, never had

any opportunity to adopt active policy toward the events

occurring in its neighboring region of the Caucasus and then under

the Soviet rule, there was no ground for activity. Now, given the

new situation in the Caucasus, the first essential step taken by

Iran after the recognition of the independence of these republics

was to transform the Islamic Republic of Iran Consulate in

Baku into an embassy and the establishment of the Islamic

Republic of Iran Embassy in Yerevan, to provide necessary

conditions for conducting activities in the region to end military

disputes and to settle the disputes peacefully through dialogue

and direct negotiations between the two sides.

Initiatives for the Peaceful settlement of the Crisis Before

Conducting Mediation by Iran.

Under the Soviet rule, Moscow's efforts to solve Karabakh

problem had no positive result; but Moscow's policies had

a determining role in preventing disputes in Karabakh from erupting intoa military confrontation. After the independence of

Azerbaijan and Armenia, the monopoly of Russia in the

developments of Karabakh was removed, and an opportunity

for regional and trans-regional powers to settle peacefully the

Karabakh Conflict was provided. Despite the fact that Russia, in

these new circumstances, still had a strong influence in these two

republics and Russian military forces had military presence in

some of the bases in the region, they could not play the same

role as they had in the past. Therefore, after the collapse of the Soviet

Union, the Crisis of Karabakh entered fully into the military

phase and Moscow's efforts to reduce tensions had no

significant result .

In Late November 1991, some negotiations were held

between Ter-Petrossian, President of Armenia, and Motallebov,

President of Azerbaijian, through consultation with Moscow which

apparently had some relatively positive results. During this

meeting Ayyaz Motallebov declared his readiness to restore the

autonomy of Karabakh to facilitate the trend of negotiations.

Also, some agreements facilitated the lifting of economic sanctions

on Armenia and Nakhchivan.[7] Terpetrossian, returning to

Moscow, said that it was agreed that the autonomy of

Karabakh was to be restored, but opposition groups did not welcome

these negotiations. Jamshid Nouriev, one of the leaders of an

organization named "Popular Aid to Karabakh" emphasized

that the Karabakh Conflict is a domestic problem of Azerbaijan,

condemned any interference by foreign powers in solving this

problem. Also, Faraj Gholiev, one of the members of

"Democratic Union for Independent Azerbaijan" regarded the

agreements made by the President in Moscow as "something

beyond his authority." Opposition continued to such an extent

that Vaghef Azar Narimanoghlu, press advisor of Motallebov

condemned the restoration of the autonomy of Karabakh.[8] In

fact, agreements made in Moscow had no practical result.

In late January 1992, member countries of CSCE, which had

already accepted the membership of Armenia and Azerbaijan in

a meeting held in Prague, approved that a delegation was to be sent

to the region for studying the situation in Karabakh,

establishing ceasefire, and deploying observer groups. The

foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia who were present

in this meeting agreed with the visit of the CSCE's observer groups

delegation. This delegation traveled to the region in mid-February.[9] Given the opposition stance of political rivals of Motallebov in Baku and the intensification of Armenian's

military operations, this visit had no concrete achievement.

2- Regional Developments before the Beginning of Iran's

Mediation Effort

When in winter 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and the

region confronted with a great political vacuum , Iran regarded

Central Asia and the Caucasus in the post - Soviet era as an arena for its diplomatic movements, due to its regional situation

in one hand and its willingness to break its imposed diplomatic

restrictions by the West, on the other. The post - Soviet

era witnessed the continuance of the conflict. The form and

situation of this conflict could respond in some ways to Iran's

policies in this era.

First, Iran was in the neighborhood of the environment of

conflict. Karabakh is situated only 40 km distance from its

borders. At that time, this possibility raised that the

boundaries of conflict extended to the beyond of Karabakh.

Since them, Iran's consideration was based on security


Second, regional situation was in a large vacuum. This

resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia as the

immediate successor of it could not restore its traditional

influence on these regions. Although Iran faced an

important and major rival such as Turkey in these regions, Iran

enjoyed better conditions. One of these conditions was having

relationship with Armenia of which Turkey was deprived. This

situation allowed Iran to adopt an active policy toward the


These two approaches have an important role in the

formation of Iran's regional policy and the beginning of its

mediatory efforts. Iran tried to institutionalize and sustain

political presence in the region. This perception was based on

political objectivity. Azerbaijan and Armenia were engaged in a

complicated and wearying conflict which, in the final

analysis, could not be settled up in a manner that could be

acceptable for both of them.

In these circumstances, Iran's mediation was put forth as an

approach for the settlement of conflict between two sides.

However, a deep deviation emerged which mostly derived from

the speed of developments and Iran's diplomatic stance. The

speed of regional developments attracted foreign elements. At

that time, states and international organizations tried to

engage themselves in the conflict.

This deviation derived from this fact that should Iran seek

the settlement of conflict through mediation or by having active

political presence and expanding its political influence in the

region. Thus, Iranian diplomacy was faced with a behavioral option,

which ensured negative political implications. These

implications were mostly based on adopting a political behavior that

relied upon intensive diplomatic activity. Finally, Iran opted

for mediatory approach.

The mediatory efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran include

a six month process. This process began from January 1992

and ended September of that year, during this period some

developments occurred including relative capturing of

Karabakh and occupation of Shousha and Lachin, two strategic

cities, one in Karabakh and other outside of it in Azerbaijan's

territories. This process marks the most difficult period in the

trend of events in Karabakh conflict. This period coupled

significant and extensive military and political transformations.

Examining political and military developments at the beginning

of Iran's pacifist efforts makes clear the complicated situation

of conflict and Iran's difficult situation for alleviating the

intensity of the crisis.

Agreements made at the meeting between the Presidents of

Azerbaijan and Armenia held in late November in Moscow not

only took effect, but also complicated the

situation in Baku, due to the existence of political rivalries. The

decision taken by CSCE in its session in late January to settle

peacefully Karabakh conflict and the visit of its delegation to

the region in mid February had no results. The defeat of

Azerbaijani forces in the areas around Stepanakert and the seizure

of most areas in Karabakh by Armenians on one hand and the

fall of Khoujali in February 26 on the other hand promoted

political developments in Baku leading finally to the

resignation of Moltallebov, President of Azerbaijan on March 6

and the appointment of Yaghoub Mohammadov as caretaker

President and head of Azerbaijan's National Council.

One of the main tasks of Azerbaijan's National Council was

to form a coalition government consisting of Communists and

People Front members. However, despite the fact that negotiations

between Communists and People Front leaders lasted for more

than one month, the inabilityof government to give key

positions to the individuals favored by People Front led these

talks to a deadlock. In early April 1992, the spokesman of

People Front declared that the defeat of negotiations implied

the beginning of street fighting.[10] An important part of People

Front forces required for street fighting were in Karabakh war


The situation in which Iran began its efforts for the

settlement of Karabakh conflict could be analyzed from two

points of view. From military point of view, an imbalance

created in fronts, political differences and power struggle in

Baku had negative impact on war fronts, while political groups

exploited war and military forces in favor of their factional

interests. On the contrary, Armenian forces were hopeful about

the future due to their successive victories.

From political point of view, the transitory and shaking

government of Baku could not make essential decisions about

the settlement of conflict in an atmosphere replete with

political differences. Contrary to Azerbaijan, where existed no

political unity, in Armenia there was relative stability and

political unity. Armenian political parties and groups did not allow

their existing differences to

compromise the political stability of the republic.[12]

Karabakh leaders did not show any political flexibility for

the settlement of crisis because of their success in the war front. Also,

Armenia's authorities either had no influence on them or

agreed with rigid policies adopted by Karabakh leaders. In this

period, military developments had influenced political

approaches and for this reason peaceful attempts which had

been already made had no success. In this unsuitable

atmosphere, the Islamic Republic of Iran began its mediatory

efforts for the peaceful settlement of Karabakh Dispute which

will be studied in several stages.

III- Mediation of the Islamic Republic of Iran

1- First stage of Iran’s Mediation: Consolidation of


The stabilization of mediation came with the culmination of dispute

and the emergence of the first sign of tiredness and exhaustion.

Of the two sides, the importance of the roles played by the third

parties and mediators increased Russia, Conference of Security

and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the UN and Iran each began

their activities for the settlement of dispute. Peace efforts

made by Moscow and the delegation of CSCE could not

diminish military clashes between Azeris and Armenians. With

the fall of areas surrounding Stepanakert and important and

strategic city of Khoujaloo by the attacks of Armenian forces,

intensified fighting and it was expected that in new

circumstances the number of casualties and displaced people

would increase. Under the conditions of increased military activity the region was awaiting bloody and extensive events. Dr. Veayati, foreign

minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in February 1992

made negotiations with the presidents of Azerbaijan and

Armenia about the peaceful settlement of Karabakh Dispute

And declared the readiness of the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide any assistance necessary for decreasing tensions.

Following these negotiations and the declaration of the Iranian

Foreign Minister showing the readiness of Iran, high ranking

representatives of the two sides visited Tehran in August at the

Tope of their relevant delegations, for negotiations and

consultations with Iranian authorities. The head of Armenian

delegation was Papazian, an advisor to the president, and the head of

Azeri delegation was assumed by Albert Salamov, deputy

foreign minister. They negotiated directly with Vaezi, the Iranian

deputy foreign minister during several sessions. These

negotiations were very important for Iran, because after the

passage of a difficult period replete with military clashes, an

evaluation of the demands put forth by the two sides and of

their interests for the peaceful settlement of conflict could be


One of the formal challenges creating a serious obstacle in

this round of negotiations was the presence and participation of

Karabakh forces in the next round of negotiations to implement

future understandings and decisions. The Armenian delegation

believed that the main party of negotiation about the

settlement of Karabakh Dispute were the Karabakh authorities themselves, who

had to participate personally in negotiations and decide

their own future. The role of Armenian government would only be to

facilitate the advancement of negotiations. The Azeri delegation

believed that first, since Karabakh was a part of Azerbaijan’s

territory, the presence of Karabakh authorities as a party to

negotiations implies the recognition of their claims for

obtaining independence. Second, Karabakh fought against

Azarbaijan as the proxy of Armenia and if not for comprehensive Armenian support, the conflict would not

expand to such levels. Therefore, the main party to the Karabakh

dispute was Armenia itself, and if an agreement was made with Armenia resulted

in the non — intervention of Armenia in Karabakh affairs, an

adequate solution for this conflict could be found. The Armenian

delegation did not deny its moral and political support for

Karabakh and believed that if Armenia stopped its support,

Azerbaijan's hostile policies towards Armenians inhabiting

Karabakh would become so harsh that no individual

Armenian would remain in Karabakh. Given the serious

differences between the views of the Armenian and Azerbaijani

delegations, the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed that the two

sides would determine the legal status of Karabakh involving

its autonomy in the future through negotiations to solve this


As a result of these negotiations, a 14-point statement was

formulated. In this statement many issues such as the removing of the

blockade, the return of refugees to their country, as well as the overall settlement of

dispute coupled with a general formula for different stages. It

was agreed that after the approval of the two presidents this

statement would be issued as the Tehran Statement. One of its

paragraphs stipulated that the two sides should determine the

legal status of Karabakh involving its autonomy in the future

through negotiations. This paragraph was rejected by

President of Azerbaijan and consequently the agreements made

in Tehran were not realized.

After the opposition of President of Azerbaijan to that part of the

statement which was about the legal status of Karabakh,

presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia during their talks with

Iranian foreign minister, declared their willingness for the

continuation of efforts made in Tehran, including Iran's

mediation in Karabakh Dispute. This request, which is

considered as the main and most important factor in every

effort for mediation, set the stage for the Iranian official

mediatory efforts to enter a new stage. Given Iran's situation, the

two sides expected that Tehran's lead could provide for an

effective compromise.

After the visit of Iranian foreign minister in March 1992 and

the official declaration of mediatory activities by Iran in

the Karabakh Dispute, Dr Velayati, in a letter to the UN secretary

General on 8 March 1992, outlined objectives, actions and

efforts envisioned by Iran. In part of this letter, he noted that

the efforts made in his recent visit to Baku and Yerevan

entered into its practical and serious stage, underscored the

interests of Iran’s government to maintain stability and peace in

the region and throughout the world.[13] Efforts made for

informing international bodies, particularly the UN, about Iran's

activity aimed at showing the effective and efficient role played

by Iran in the scene of regional politics. The Iranian foreign

minister, in another part of his letter to Boutrous Ghali wrote;

"The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran committed

itself to respond positively to the requests made by Armenian

and Azeri authorities for conducting mediatory efforts to solve

Karbakh dispute."[14]

Following Azeri and Armenian willingness to comply to and demands for Iran's mediation of for, Vaezi, the Iranian deputy foreign

minister was officially introduced as the mediator to continue

previous efforts. Given the experience obtained from

negotiations between Azeri and Armenian delegations in

Tehran, the Iranian Mediatory Delegation still needed to become more

familiar with regional realities particularly stances taken by

Karabakh leaders, whose presence at that time in negotiations

was impossible. They also needed to ensure that decisions

and agreements conformed with the views of high ranking

authorities, and thus adopted a plan of periodical visits and shuttle diplomacy as

an adequate method for overcoming existing problems.

2- The Second stage of Iran's Mediation: Shuttle Diplomacy

The second stage of Iran's mediation began in March 1992.

Iranian delegation headed by Vaezi visited Baku, Yerevan,

Stepankert and Nakhchivan several times. During these

periodical visits intensive and working negotiations were

carried out with most of qualified and relevant authorities

about Karabakh conflict, including high ranking individuals

such as the presidents, prime minister, foreign minister, minister of

defense, national security advisors and speaker of Parliament

from the two republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia. These

negotiations aimed at making closer the stances of the two sides

and set the stage for further improvement of relationship

between concerned parties in Karabakh Dispute.

During these visits and negotiations with the different levels

of authorities of the three involved parties, stances, views and

the degree of flexibility of all concerned parties were closely

examined . As a result before holding direct negotiations

between Azeri and Armenian delegations, their views have

relatively come close to each other, and, in fact, mediatory

delegation knew that involved parties were ready to what

extent adjust their positions and managed the trend of affairs

based on these data.

The Iranian mediatory delegation tried to use every means for

making closer the positions of the two sides. Under the Soviet

rule, there was a direct communication line among the Communist

Party's leaders which continued to exist after the collapse of the

Soviet Union. The Iranian mediatory delegation, in addition to

consultation and arrangements of direct negotiations, used this valuable communication

line when the situation was complicated or an important problem required the exchange of views at a higher level.

The Iranian mediatory delegation was aware of the negative and

positive role of Russia in the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh

dispute, given its vast influence in military and civilian bodies of

both countries. Therefore, the Iranian delegation visited Moscow

for conducting consultations, completing its efforts and

probably attracting Russian cooperation for improving common

efforts in the future; thereby Russian officials became aware of

previous attempts and also future plans about the Karabakh

dispute. In these negotiations, efforts made by Iran to end the

Karabakh Dispute were appreciated. Although Russian

officials, particularly the Russian foreign minister, welcomed the

activities of Iranian mediatory delegation and expressed their

best wishes for the success of its mediatory efforts, they did not

go further. Meanwhile, given the geographical situation of

Georgia in the region and the influence of its positions in the

settlement of dispute, Iranian delegation visited Tbilsi and

informed Georgian officials about attempts made by Iran. The

officials of the Iranian foreign ministry and the ambassadors of

the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a similar attempt, consulted with

the authorities in the countries which were somehow interested

in the future of the Caucasus developments.

a) Plan of Iranian Mediatory Delegation for the Settlement of

Karabakh Dispute:

Iran's attempts initially were focused on reducing the

intensity of war and setting the stage for reaching an

agreement on transitory ceasefire. One of the other plans of the

mediatory delegation was assuring that involved parties did not use the opportunity to arm themselves. Azerbijan was reluctant to even include the representatives of Karabakh in negotiations

which was considered an implicit recognition of secession

of Karabakh from Azerbaijan. Armenia believed that

without the presence of Karabakh leaders in negotiations,

decisions would not have any sanction and would be fruitless.

Mean while, Karabakh representatives did not agree to

participate in the meetings as observers or at the lower political

levels. This problem has been always challenging in the way of negotiations and reaching agreement.[15]

The Iranian mediatory delegation presented its suggestions after

preliminary negotiations with the leaders of the three involved

parties aimed at obtaining more information about their

positions and limitations. These suggestions contained a

general plan for reaching a settlement. Although these

suggestions were formulated given the possibility of admission

by the involved parties and their limitations, they were

accepted by the involved parties in general. However, it could not be expected that all of

them would be enforced in a short period of time, due to the

fluidity of events, existence of domestic pressure groups,

interventions by some regional powers and parties non -

compliance with their pledges. The most important suggestions

to reach compromise or breaking initial formulated in a 13 —

point plan are as follows:

- Transitory and then permanent ceasefire

- Deployment of observers to monitor the ceasefire and to

comply with agreements;

- Exchanging prisoners and the bodies of killed soldiers ;

- Removing economic sanctions imposed on Karabakh by


- Opening of transportation and communication ways of


- Forming Committees for the return of displaced people

concurrent with the removal of sanctions ;

- Humanitarian aid to Karabakh

- Beginning negotiations for the determination of

Karabakh’s legal status.[16]


b) Establishment of Transitory Ceasefire:

The first round of establishment of transitory ceasefire which

took place with the agreement of three involved parties in

Karabakh Dispute, was enforced from March 21st 1992

(concurrent with Nowrouz). The emphasis made by temporary

ceasefire by the mediatiory delegation, due to its importance on

establishing confidence between parties and providing an

opportunity for cooling down the dispute.

Efforts made by the Iranian mediatory delegation to transform

transitory ceasefire to permanent one had little success,

because of concerns expressed by both sides about the creation

of an opportunity to rearm and strengthen their forces. Iran's

plan was devised for maintaining ceasefire, using peacekeeping

forces consisting of Iranian and Russian forces to monitor

ceasefire in the region and their cooperation with OSCE's

peacekeeping forces and the UN which was not materialized

due to the failure in obtaining permanent ceasefire.

One of the effective attempts made by Iranian delegation

was to deploy some representatives in Yerevan, Baku and

Stepanakert to monitor ceasefire and coordination with the

officials from three parties to implement agreements.

Mr Alireza Sheikhattar, the former Iranian ambassador to New

Delhi as its representation in Baku, Mr Behzad Mazaheri,

former Iranian ambassador in Kief as its representative in

Stepanakert and Mr Bahram Ghassemi, Iranian ambassador in

Rome as its representative in Yerevan began their work. They

reported regularly and quickly to the mediatory delegation about

the happenings, their activities and also violations of ceasefire.

The establishment of the first ceasefire after a round of

bloody fighting, created hope for the returning of peace and

stability among warring parties and civilians in the region. The

most important message of the ceasefire was the formation of the

opinion among involved parties that reaching an agreement on

the important issues of dispute would be possible through

negotiations. The establishment of ceasefire, from the Iranian

delegations point of view, was one of the most important factors

for building confidence in the relationship between the involved

parties and could play a major role for the future missions of

the mediatory delegation.

3- Third Stage of Iran's Mediation: Tehran Summit

The Iranian mediatory delegation, after achieving some success in

the second stage of mediation regarding the reduction in the

intensity of fightings, produced a transitory ceasefire and prepareda

plan agreed upon its generalities by all the parties, visited the

region in May 1992 and had meetings with the authorities of

Azerbaijan and Armenia, including their presidents, during

which it emphasized finalizing and operationalizing Iran's

plan prepared in the second stage of mediation. As a result of

efforts and negotiations made by the Iranian delegation, the

presidents of the two countries agreed to visit Tehran to

participate in a trilateral meeting with the presence of the Iranian

president. Also, it was agreed that the second transitory

ceasefire to be established in May 1992. Mechanisms predicted

for implementing this ceasefire was identical to the first one.

Azerbaijan's opposition to the presence of Karabakh leaders in

Tehran Summit Caused that Armenian delegation expressed

the views of Karabakh leaders.

The Iranian mediatory delegation believed that for obtaining

essential results for the settlement of dispute it would be

necessary that decisions were approved officially and publicly

by the leaders of both countries to begin a new phase to settle

up Karabakh Dispute,

For this reason, Armenian President Terpetrossian, and

Yaghoub Mahammadov, caretaker president of Azerbaijan

visited Tehran in May 1992 at the invitation of Hashemi

Rafsanjani, the Iranian president, to participate in a trilateral meeting. Negotiations held in Tehran, which lasted two days,

were very intensive and during which an agreement was signed

by three presidents on May 7, 1992 which was called Tehran

Summit declaration (Annex l) .

The Tehran Summit can be analyzed from different

perspectives. First, it culminated Iran's political efforts to

reach an agreement, however transitory and short lived.

Second, it reflected Iran's efforts in the regional and international

levels to establish peace and stability commensurate with the

greater role of Iran in the region. Third, the Tehran Summit was the

first diplomatic effort of this kind being held at the highest level

between the mediator and the authorities of two involved

countries . Later, this procedure repeated frequently,

particularly in Moscow.

a) Tehran Summit Declaration:

The Tehran Summit Declaration contained delicate points

mentioned by the mediatory delegation. Meanwhile, because of the

presence of two leaders, its signing could increase its credit and

weight. The main points of this declaration were as follows:

- Appreciation of the efforts made by the IRI and other

countries and international organizations to establish


- Regular and continuous meetings between high

ranking military officials to create regional security arrangements

- Emphasis on the settlement of all bilateral problems

based on international law and the principles of OSCE:

- Finding a solution for the problems of Azeri and Armenian

displaced people

- Emphasis on observing human rights as well as the rights

of minorities in both countries

- Emphasis made by two sides on peace and stability in the fronts as well as in Nagorno Karabakh:

- Requesting the Iranian side to again send Mr. Vaezi, in order to continue

mediatory efforts:

- Two leaders support for enforcing ceasefire

- Expressing hope by the two sides for the continuation of

Iran's mediatory efforts aimed at obtaining full peace and

security in the region until reaching a final result.[17]

b) Appraisal of Iran’s Mediation:

The Tehran Summit, which culminated in Iran's efforts to end one of

the most complicated disputes within the former Soviet Union,

despite effective preparations, could not materialize its positive

results and achievements due to the unilateral action of

Karabakh Armenians in capturing Shousha. However, in spite

of this unforeseen development in the scene of military

operations, positive efforts of the IRI continued. However, the close

relationship between problems relating to dispute and the new

military developments relating to dispute and new military

developments, changing military forces formations

influencing the two sides, the changes created in the occupied

regions, the increasing number of displaced people, prisoners and

casualties, uninterrupted flow of weapons to the

disputed region and most importantly, full non — confidence of

Azerbaijan in Armenia, had made the situation far more

difficult for continuing mediation. In these circumstances,

every mediatory efforts faced with limitations. Meanwhile,

the Tehran Summit proved a political point that was Iran's

concern over developments occurring in neighboring regions.

The seizure of Shousha happened several hours after the

signature of summit declaration while two Armenian and Azeri

high-ranking delegations were staying in Tehran, and faced

with consternation. The primary perception suggested thenon-adherence of Armenian side as a whole including

Armenians inhabiting in Karabakh and Yerevan at that time.

This inevitable development, influenced by the logic of

war, transformed the war situation. The seizure of Shousha led

to that of Lachin and this finally led to the opening of the famous

corridor of Shousha - Lachin - Goris which links directly

Karabakh to Armenia.

The other side of this development was Azerbaijan's

particular political situation. In Azerbaijan, Karabakh's

developments have been always a factor for transforming

internal situation. The period leading to the seizure of Shousha

and the Lachin was a suitable period for the People Front to leap at

political power. The withdrawal of military and paramilitary

forces from Shousha, which was Azeris' strategic trench in

Karabakh and their point of military reliance, caused political damage to the People Front government, making them unable to compromise.

When the Tehran Summit was progressing, the main goal of

designers of the fall of Shousha at that critical period was to

defeat Iranian mediatory efforts. In this regard two point of

views are worth of mentioning. Some believe that Russia's plot

with the help of Karabakh forces set the stage for the fall of

Shousha. Others believe that the treason made by Azerbaijan's

People Front with Turkey's more assistance paved the way for

losing Shousha. After the seizure of Shousha, it was made clear

that Azerbaijan's military forces which were mostly proponents

of People Front, due to the fact that only one day before the fall of the city had deserted

their positions and fortifications and withdrawn. Yaghoub

Mhammadov, Azerbaijan's caretaker president, in his report

to Azeri people about the causes of the fall of Shousha said that

an important sector of defense forces had left the city on

March 7, one day before the Armenian Attacks.[18]

Given these events, the agreement made at Tehran summit

was not applicable. Thereafter, Iran's approach to mediation is

distinguished from the previous period prior to the Tehran Summit.

This distinction was derived from both domestic impact of

dispute and political behavior after the Tehran Summit in the

region. Its distinguishing feature, in both the external and internal

dimension, was the lack of vitality, given the speed of the trend

of events. In fact, developments after the seizure of Shousha

and the Lachin were so fast and serious that the form and

nature of conflict totally changed. As a result, Iran could not

keep up with these developments as the previous period. This

development in Iran's political behavior stemmed from political

impact of the seizure of Shousha and Lachin, which caused

Iranian diplomacy to become inactive .

When Karabakh became an important and determining

factor in the domestic scene of Azerbaijan, it was no

longer able to deal with the dispute. Due to this fact that the

political focus was nolonger to end the non-obedience of

separatist Armenians. Rather, it centered around internal

disputes involving rival political groups.[19] The fall of Shousha

and shortly afterwards that of Lachin set the stage for the

overthrow of unstable government of Yaghoub Mohammadov,

and the People Front's coming to power. After the fall of

Shousha, the mediatory delegation continued its activities, but with

the formation of a government by People Front and, given the

vast influence of Turkey on this group and the opposition of

the People Front to Iran, there was no longer any chance for the

continuation of Iranian mediatory delegation activities. After 6 months of peace - seeking efforts, these activities


4- Political Consequences of Mediation for Iran

Iran's mediation, in addition to its direct influence on the

dispute itself, and the relationship between Azerbaijan and

Armenia, was a beginning for other peaceful efforts made by

other countries, as well as regional and international organizations.

It had political impact and consequences for Iran, which could

be studied from internal and external aspects, and form an internal

policy aspect, two subjects that are concrete results of

mediation. In other words, prevention of unfavorable impact

on national security and effective control of domestic political

issues. From the foreign policy aspect, two general subjects that

are instruments of political confidence expressed by involved

parties towards Iran and assertion of Iran's role and influence

in the developments of the Caucasus and Central Asia, which is

a perception beyond the framework of mediation, are worth

mentioning and will be summarily analyzed below.

a) Impact of Mediation on the Relationship between Iran and Regional


After the independence of the republics in the Caucasus,

negative propaganda regarding Iran increased significantly. As

for Azerbaijan, the propaganda were directed to increasing

power of Islamic groups and their intervention in their internal

affairs. The revival of historical background suggested that

most of the cities in the republic of Azerbaijan had belonged to

Iran and that country was trying to recapture them was a single propaganda effort among many that was against Iran's policy in the region. On the

other hand, as for Armenia, the propaganda formulated in a

manner that implying due to this fact that Azerbaijan is both a

Muslim and Shiite country like Iran, the IRI policy was to

support Azerbaijan in its war with Armenia. It was natural

that political consultations against Iran regarding these

incorrect subjects could have very negative impact on the

relationship between Iran and two neighboring countries in

their early years of independence; also, its negative impact on

the relationship between Iran and the Central Asian countries were

serious, and therefore, mediation could make clear Iran's policies

towards the two involved countries and Central Asia based on

mutual respect and neutralized some of the propaganda.

While major political efforts and propaganda were underway

to contain Iran's influence in the Caucasus, regulating suitable

relationships with Iran’s two neighboring countries and obtaining the

confidence of involved parties, were two of the most important

achievements of Iran in the process of mediation. This political

confidence began during the negotiations of high ranking

representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Tehran by

agreeing on the Tehran Declaration, continuing with several

rounds of direct negotiations at different levels and then the

reduction of the intensity of clashes and exchanging a number

of prisoners and finally two rounds of transitory ceasefire and the

signing of the Tehran Summit Declaration. The authorities of both

countries in different levels as well as Karabakh officials, in

their negotiations with the head of Iranian mediatory

delegation, expressed their confidence and trust in Iran's policy

towards the Karabakh Dispute. This was mostly due to this fact

that Iran never had a hostile and dominating behavior towards

them for as their historical and political memory suggested.

Continuous negotiations and efforts made by Iranian

mediatory delegation for the settlement of the dispute and the

reduction of the intensity of clashes had positive effects on the

public opinion of the two nations of Armenia and Azerbaijan,

and made clearer Iran's good faith reflected in its policies

towards two neighboring countries, to the extent that this

behavior had a determining impact on the expansion of

bilateral relations with both countries. At that time, one of the

problems was to open the IRI's embassy in Yerevan and

sending an ambassador there which was predicted to be a

difficult step for Iran given the intensive clashes between

Azerbaijan and Armenia and faced with the reaction of the

republic of Azerbaijan and some of internal groups in Iran, but

with Iran's mediation in the Karabakh Dispute, opening an Iranian

embassy became natural and those who opposed having

relations with Armenia regarded it as an instrument for


The willingness of the Karabakh leaders to open the doors for

cooperation with Iran, expressed since the first political contact

between the two parties during mediation. Although Iran could

not have a formulated relations with Karabakh because of its

principled policies, interest and good faith showed by one of the

major actors in the dispute towards Iran could be considered an

important factor. One of the most important points in

expressing political confidence in Iran was that various

commonalities between Iran and Azerbaijan had no effect in

Armenia's policies towards Iran. In fact, Armenians had

accepted that Iran had a special relationship with Azerbaijan

due to their religious and cultural commonalities. For this

reason, during the period of active Iran's mediation, Armenians

never protested it. In practice, Iran's apparent policy in its

bilateral relation tilted somewhat towards Azerbaijan, but

regarding issues related to mediation, it acted out of justice and

neutrality .

For the first time in contemporary Iranian history, mediation

opened a window for more diplomatic mobility in a region which

has been a traditional arena for Iranian

interests and influence. In comparison with early

years of World War I when Iran experienced a decline in its

political power, the new period (with all its shortages which will

be explained in the section of results and consequences)

suggests an active role in the field of diplomacy. Except for

Russia, Iran was the first country in the region, and at

international level, which entered into the process of mediation

by the request of both parties. Although the settlement of a

dispute with such a record and history was not expected in a

short period, it provided an opportunity for Iran to enter the arena of regional

politics and to obtain a relatively favorable position given

its assets and potential.

The assertion of the role and influence of Iran was very

important for the actors, for Iran enjoyed a traditional and powerful

position in this region, and also had great influence on Iran's

political behavior in the region. It could be said that Iran, by

doing this, despite the major propaganda against regional

policies, could build confidence and enter into the field of

developments and event of Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Future events in the region showed that Iran could have an

effective power in the region.

Contrary to the previous period, the years after the First

World War , Iran had a pioneering role following the collapse of

the Soviet Union. The approach of Iranian diplomacy, serving

as a mediator in Karabakh Dispute was unique in its kind until

that time in the history Iranian diplomacy. Despite the

weaknesses of Iranian diplomacy towards Karabakh, the efforts

made by Iran for mediation increased its presence and influence

in the region.

b) Consequences of Mediation in Iran's Domestic Policies:

To show the importance of this subject, it is necessary to take

a glance at the history of interaction between peoples in Iran

and the Caucasus. After the secession of some regions from

Iran's territory in the first war of Iran and Russia, there was

always some political interaction between peoples inhabiting both sides of the border. The second war of Iran and Russia

occurred due to the unsolved problems of the first war and

unjust Russian behavior toward the inhabitants of these

regions, particularly Muslims, which angered Iran. In

the last years of the First World War, the Caucasus was

involved in large military disputes. Ethnical tensions between

Azeris and Armenians culminated. Also the people inhabiting the

Iranian side of the border, in order to support Muslims, expressed

their opposition to Armenian's behavior.

The government headed by the Musavat party in the first period

of independence adopted the name of "Azerbaijan" for the

country. One of the goals of adopting this name, was to exploit

Iranian Azeris in favor of Azerbaijani interests. At that time,

attracting Iranian Azeris was very important for the Musavat

government; for this reason, great efforts were made so that all

the news regarding struggling with Armenians were reflected

on this side of the border. As said in the previous chapter, during

the First World War, due to this fact that Iran was under the

pressure by allied forces and had not an authoritarian central

government. At that time, skilful management of local

authorities and Azeri clerics in Iran prevented the spread

of Armenia’s clashes with the Azeris in the Caucasus into Iran's


Despite this, Iranian Azeris showed led peaceful lives alongside Iranian Armenians,

and the Armenian community in Iran had always been a minority

conforming with the government; their minority position and

the long history of living among Muslims taught them to

behave accordingly. Iranian Armenians have never experienced

hardships and displacements of their religious brethren in the

Caucasus and Ottoman Empire. The reason for this has been

the intelligent behavior of Muslims and the tranquility of

Iranian Armenians.

Another important point for the Islamic Republic of Iran in

this dispute was the stability of its common borders with

Azerbaijan and Armenia. Iran has common borders with

both countries and its distance with Karabakh, the main

center of dispute, is about 40 km2 . Given the above mentioned

subjects, Iran could not be indifferent to the developments

occurring along its borders, security changes of the borders

and their impact on Iran's internal developments.

When Iran's mediation entered into the practical phase, the disputed

boundaries were confined to Karabakh. Azeri forces

still controlled some areas in the east and south of Karabakh,

particularly strategic city of Shousha. However, the intensity of

armament of Karabakh forces and extreme position of their

leaders suggested the escalation of conflict. At that time, however, only

some signs had emerged implying the possibility of

geographical expansion of war. This issue was very important

in terms of security matters, it could have entailed a threat against the

borders and stability of neighboring countries.

In addition to this approach, some plans were proposed for

the settlement of dispute by some countries and forums which

had a direct relation with Iran’s national security. The political

plan of “Land for Peace” which was first proposed by Andrei

Sakharov and, later after increase in the size of lands captured

by Karabakh forces, forward by Paul Gobel, former advisor of

the US secretary of state in the Soviet nationality and one of

the researchers of Carnegie Foundation.

Based on this plan, Karabakh links to Armenia through the

Corridor of Shousha and Lachin; and Azerbaijan links to

Nakhchevan through a narrow strip.[20] This plan constituted

the basis of important political activities in the period of the People

Front government. Based on this plan, the border between

Armenia and Iran was removed and by linking Nakhchevan to

Azerbaijan, Turkey’s limitation in having direct access to

Azerbaijan was eliminated. This plan, if implemented, could

change the political geography of region.

Armenia and Russia opposed to this plan. Also, Iran

expressed its opposition to the change of political geography of the

region. If this plan could have been somehow implemented it

would have had wide political, economic and security effects on

the region. Linking Nakhchevan to Azerbaijan would have

reduced the importance of Iran's unique and distinctive position

in the Caucasus and interrupted Iran's linkage with Armenia. In

addition to this, it would have created a dramatic change in the

route of transferring the Caspian oil and gas to Europe, which

was by no means favorable for Iran.

Coordination between Turkey and Azerbaijan created by

geographical linkage could be a source of disturbance for the

Azerbaijan of Iran, in the case that an extremist government

came to power in Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan, in the

culmination of its weakness when facing with the Karabakh

problem (under the extremist government of People Front),

claimed to be the supporter of Azerbaijan of Iran,

strengthening relations with Turkey and having geographical

links with this country, extremist thoughts in both countries

could have made serious trouble.

At the time of beginning the conflict in Karabakh, some

efforts began for influencing the social environment of Iran by

Azerbaijan through keeping their exploitation of events and developments to a

minimum. Iranian policy was based on good relations with

both neighboring countries; meeting Azerbaijan's

expectations contradicted the principles of mediation. For

Azerbaijan, which was under the pressure of Armenians, the

policy of exerting the maximum external pressure on

Armenians was much more desirable. Azeris felt that Iranian people

were disposed to make such decisions. Therefore, they tried to

imply that Iran had given arms, military equipment and fuel,

while this country, despite the adoption of the policy of

continuing ordinary relations and commercial cooperation,

never supplied Armenia with ammunitions, fuel and weapons.

The reason for adopting this policy was that Iran did not want

To influence its good relationship with Azerbaijan through this

behavior and to leave a negative historical record in the minds

of Azeri people. On the other hand, Iran was not interested in

the escalation of war along its borders without

considering Iranian policies in the region in the Caucasus. A

few groups of Iranian Par-Turkists tried hard in this respect.

Although expressing Islamic sentiments by Iranians was

Inevitable, particularly in light of the values of Islamic revolution

that emphasized supporting Muslims, this could have adverse internal

consequences, which could lead to the undermining of the historical

relationship between Iranian minorities and great community

of Iranian Muslims. Therefore, these developments could have had negative effects on

the life of the Armenians in Iran.

However, the efforts made by the Republic of Azerbaijan and

its authorities, intellectuals and propaganda apparatus focused

on exploiting the situation of Azerbaijan of Iran to meet its

interests and to hurt Armenians. Of course, it should be added

that Azeris used any opportunity for undermining the new

established relations between Iran and Armenia.

Azeris expected Iran, like Turkey, to support them

unilaterally and to reduce its level of relationship with Armenia

and particularly its relationship with its neighbors. Azerbaijan went so far

that it urged Tehran to end their relationships with Yerevan.[21] Iran while understanding the situation of Azerbaijan,

recommended Azeris to move towards objectivity and to adopt

a moderate policy.

During the mediation, in addition to regional aspects, the

situation in Iran was more stable than any time in the past.

There was no fertile grounds within the country to facilitate

spreading problems related to the conflict into this side of

borders. In other words, pursuing mediatory policy, which was

itself a favorable approach in foreign policy, controlled domestic

problems due to its pioneering role and did not allow that some

internal factors determined the official policy towards an ethnic

and regional conflict occurring near our borders. In 1992, when the

People Front came to power in Azerbaijan, it used all its

capabilities for destabilizing the situation in Iran and spreading

disputes between Armenians and Azeris into Iran's territory.

One of the main slogans of the government of People Front was

‘Unity of Two Azerbaijans.’ The People Front tried to establish a

united front consisting of Azerbaijan and Turkey to confront

with Iran, Armenia and Russia. Extremist policies taken by

the People Front reduced the level of support of Azerbaijan and

paved the way for Armenians to capture major parts of

Azerbaijan's territory.

The effective control of domestic affairs, especially in the defeat

of Azerbaijan's provocative policy for creating enmities between

Azeris and Armenians within the country, was one of the

main characteristics of mediatiory policy. The interesting point

in the mutual understanding of all ethnic groups inhabiting

Iran could be found in Azerbaijan. Despite the little distance

from the border and the widespread broadcast of the news of

dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the

existence of a minority of Armenian people in the different

cities of Azerbaijan including Tabriz, Iran did not witness any serious

confrontation between Iranian Azeris and Armenians during

the long period of conflict.[22]

5- Russian Approach towards Iran's Mediation

Due to the importance attached by Russia to the Caucasus, it

considered seriously every act that increased its influence in the

region. Iranian diplomatic moves in the Karabakh Dispute, which

was an independent one, attracted Moscow's attention more

than other diplomatic movements. Meanwhile, Russia had failed in its earlier

efforts to settle the Karabakh Dispute. The Iranian Mediatory

Delegation went to Moscow after preliminary negotiations in

the capitals of the region and preparing a plan for the

settlement of dispute. Being aware of the sensitivity of Russia to

the developments in the Caucasus, the Iranians wished to conduct some negotiations

with Russian officials. The Russian foreign minister supported

initially all the efforts made for solving Karabakh problem by

any country or international organization, and them added that

he was pleased to see Iran's active participation in this issue.

Then, he expressed hope for the success of Iran's efforts.

Contacting with Russia, in the first step of mediation, ended

officially without building any basis for cooperation and

exchanging views.

Iran was interested in cooperating with Russia for joint

action but it seemed that the Iranian mediatory efforts had

been faced with Moscow's suspicions.[23] The reasons for this

suspicion were numerous. The first reason stemmed from a

geopolitical perception. Russia was looking for an answer to its

geopolitical problem in its diplomatic efforts for the settlement

of Karabakh Dispute. The vacuum derived form the collapse of

the Soviet Union was filled naturally by other countries.

Political environment could not remain in a vacuum. Therefore,

Russia suspected every effort, including Iran's attempts, for

restoring the political order in the republics of the former Soviet


Russia was interested in limiting Iran's role to bilateral

consultations. Russia never wanted Iran to play a role

beyond ordinary and diplomatic behavior in the Caucasus. This

point of view is not confined to Iran. Russians have a similar

view about other actors such as Turkey and even the OSCE.

However, the OSCE, due to its international credit and weight, along with

the membership of Russia, enjoyed a better position and

therefore could have more participation in the process of


Russia always suspected Iran in the process of mediation. It

could not accept that Iranian efforts could take the steps for

removing tensions, at least nominally. However, the process of consultation, which did not involve any political movescontinued between the two countries.

Concurrently, and after the third phase of dispute that was

the seizure of Shousha and Lachin by Armenian forces of

Karabakh and the increase of OSCE's participation, Russia

tried to approach to Iran to use its influence in this process in a

limited way .

The change of government in Azerbaijan brought about new

developments in the dispute. Azeris tried to diversify effective

parameters and to increase their maneuvering power. Attempts

for employing Afghan mercenaries and concluding oil contracts

with some of Western companies were among the most

important cruxes of Azerbajian's activities regarding exerting pressure

on Armenians. In these circumstances, Russians redirected

their attention towards Iran, having in mind that Tehran was

in a position to persuade the Afghan prime minister to call up his

mercenaries from Azerbaijan.[24] This perception of Iran's role

was utilitarian and marginal. This approach is still valid among

Russian officials regarding Iran's role in Karabakh Dispute.


In the Name of God

Tehran Summit Declaration

At the invitations of His Excellency Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani,

His Excellency Yaghoub Mohammadov, acting President of

Azerbaijan and His Excellency Leon Terpetrossian, President of

Armenia visited Tehran.

By the proposal and initiative of the Islamic Republic of Iran

and in the framework of diplomatic efforts to normalize

situation in Mountainous Karabakh and borders of Armenia

and Azerbaijan, to make views closer and to reduce regional

tensions, the head of two states with the presence of His

Excellency Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani met with each other on May

7 , 1992. In these talks which were carried out in a constructive

atmosphere replete with common understanding, the parties

agreed on:

1- Initially, the two parties appreciated efforts made by the

IRI and other countries and international and regional

organizations for the settlement of regional problems by

peaceful means and expressed their hopes that these

peaceful and benevolent intentions bring peace and


2- The two parties agreed that continuous visits between the

representatives of the two republics in the highest level

and also military and provincial officials will be taking

place for developing bilateral relations and regional

security arrangements.

3- The two parties expressed their willingness to solve all

the problems regarding the normalization of bilateral

relations based on the principles of OSCE and

international law by peaceful means and in different


4- The two parties emphasized on peace and stability in

borders and mountainous Karabakh which are in the

interests of both of them based on international law and

the UN charter.

5- The two parties emphasized on observing human rights

and minority rights and attracted their respective

attention to find a solution for the problem of Azeri and

Armenian displaced people.

6- The two parties agreed that one week after the visit of His

Excellency Mr. Vaezi, representative of the IRI,

president to the region (Baku, Yervan, Mountainous

Karabakh) and his negotiations with relevant parties and

attracting the support of Azerbaijani and Armenian

leaders, the ceasefire would be put in force. At the same

time, all the connecting roads would open to meet

economic needs. To implement the agreements, in

addition to some observers from the IRI, observers from

OSCE and others would be employed.

7- The two parties, while considered positively the summit

talks in Tehran, agreed to settle up all bilateral problems

through consultation and negotiations between officials in

different levels.

8- The heads of two states expressed their satisfaction about

mediatory efforts made by the IRI and hoped that these

efforts would continue until reaching complete peace and

security in the region and final objective.

The Islamic Republic of Iran

Hashemi Rafsanjani

Republic of Azerbaijan

Yaqhoub Mohammadov

Republic of Armenia

Levon Terpetrossian


[1]- Hamidreza Nafez Arefi, “Mediatory Theories in International Relations and Iranian Diplomacy in Karabakh Dispute”, (Tehran : Unpublished Thesis of Post – Graduate Course, International Relations College, 1995), pp. 94-96.

[2]- Syavash Bashiri, « Azer, Azerbaygan », (Tehran : Parang

Publications, 1984), p. 32.

[3]- Kaveh Bayat, « Crude Greed and Historical and Cultural Background

of the Caucasus Problem », Majale-yc- Nashre- Dancsh, Vol.8, No.1,

Spring 1992, p. 16.

[4]- Importance of the Caucasus for Iran - syyed Ali Asghar Kazemi,

« International Crises Management », (Tehran : Institute for

Political and International Studies, 1987), p. 14.

[5]- Bayat, op. cit., p. 93.

[6]- Ibid , pp. 94-97 .

[7]- Ibid., p. 119.

[8]- Ibid ., pp. 91-2.

[9]- Ibid., p. 120.

[10]- The Washington Post, 4 April 1992.

[11]- Bayat, op. cit., p. 101.

[12]- Ibid., p. 135.

[13]- Iranian foreign minister's letter to the UN Secretary General,

Tehran (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, First Directorate: CIS, March 8,


[14]- Ibid.

[15]- Transitory and then permanent ceasefire.

[16]- Ibid., p. 196.

[17]- Tehran Summit Declaration, Tehran : Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

First Directorate CIS, May 8, 1992.

[18]- Bayat, op. cit., p. 101.

[19]- Ibid., p. 137.

[20]- Ibid., p. 108

[21]- Statements by Heidar Aliev, Azerbaijan President, made before

political director general of the IRI's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

in Baku, January 1994.

[22]- Arefi, Op. Cit., pp 109 - 114.

[23]- Vera Tolz, "Russia's Diplomatic Offensive", op. cit., p. 32.

[24]- Ibid., p. 34.

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