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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


equations.



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


independence.


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


perceptions.


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


region.


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


fronts.[11]


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


Mediation


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


made.


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


problem.


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


Azerbaijan


- Opening of transportation and communication ways of


Karabakh


- 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


peace


- 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


stopped.



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


Countries:


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


mediation.


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


territory.


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


Union.


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


dispute.


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.



Annex


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


stability.



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


levels.


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











Notes








[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,


1992).


[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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