Russian News Agency Sputnik: Turkey’s Penetration Into South Caucasus Is Causing Concern In Tehran; Iran Will Do Everything In Its Power To Regain Its Influence In The Region

On February 6, 2021, the Russian news agency Sputnik’s page dedicated to Armenia published an article, titled “Regaining Influence On Baku And Offering Projects To Yerevan: Iran Is Playing Catch-Up In The Region,” assessing that Iran is concerned about Turkey’s “excessive” penetration into the South Caucasus, and that Tehran would do everything in its power to regain its influence in the region.

It is worth noting that toward the end of January 2021, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif traveled to Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey.

On January 25, 2021, Zarif arrived in Azerbaijan. In a meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Zarif welcomed the six-party regional cooperation initiative in the South Caucasus proposed by Baku,[1] which would include Iran, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.

Upon his arrival in Moscow on January 26, Zarif stated that Iran is looking to form a six-party cooperation union in the region, which was the trip’s “the most important goal.”[2]

On January 27, during his visit to Armenia, Zarif expressed to Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan Iran’s strong support for Armenia’s territorial integrity. “Our red line is the territorial integrity of the Republic of Armenia and we have made that clear,” Zarif stated, adding that Iran and Armenia have “many common concerns,” including “the presence of terrorists and foreign fighters.”[3]

On January 28, during his visit to Georgia, Zarif stated that the aftermath of the recent clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh presents an opportunity for expanding regional cooperation “to the benefit of all parties.”[4]

On January 29, during his visit to Turkey, Zarif tried to defuse the Iran-Turkey tensions over a poem that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recited when he presided over the December 10, 2020 victory parade in Baku to celebrate Azerbaijan’s victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Iran regarded Erdoğan’s recitation of the poem as support for the secession of parts of Iran populated by ethnic Azeris.[5] During the visit, Zarif told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu that Tehran has “vehemently” condemned U.S. sanctions on Turkey. “These sanctions have no value for us. The U.S. has turned into a state that is accustomed to imposing sanctions recklessly,” Zarif said.[6]

“Tehran Is Getting Seriously Concerned By The Prospects Of [Turkey’s] Creation Of The ‘Great Turan'”

“Turkey’s excessive penetration into the region has caused great concern in Tehran; the authorities of the Islamic Republic will do everything to restore their influence in the South Caucasus.

“Tehran is getting seriously concerned by the prospects of [Turkey’s] creation of the ‘Great Turan’ and will try to increase its influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan, as opposed to Ankara, orientalist Karine Gevorgyan told Sputnik Armenia.

“Following his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, [Armenian] Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan called on Iranian companies to invest in Armenia, pointing out the expected launch of a railway connection. ‘I think there is a very heated discussion going on in Iran, at the very least, a non-public one. As far as I know, they are quite concerned about Turkey’s excessive penetration into the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Many projects proposed by Iran will aim, one way or another, to present an alternative and reduce Ankara’s ability to strengthen its positions in these regions,’ Gevorgyan said.

“She believes that plans to create ‘Great Turan’ are causing concern in Tehran, which sees its task in returning Azerbaijan to its cultural and historical sphere of influence. This is perfectly clear. Iran is seriously discussing strategic plans for the region, and this topic is getting more and more attention. Most likely, the Iranian authorities are working on very serious proposals aimed at regaining the level of influence they used to have.”

“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Made A Tour Of The Region, Holding Talks In Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey And Georgia”

“The Iranians are known to get off to a slow start. But after difficult negotiations, they are very ‘contractual’ people and, as a rule, follow the agreements to the letter. At the same time, they don’t like being squeezed into a foreign template, they highly value their sovereignty.

“It is a different matter that serious separatist trends began to emerge in Iranian Azerbaijan in the aftermath of the Second Karabakh War. The Iranian authorities, politicians and IRGC members have set out to protect the domestic political arena against these dangerous trends. ‘As far as I know, in recent months active participants in protests were subjected to arrests and detentions,’ Gevorgyan said.

“Commenting on the words of the Armenian Economy Minister that Yerevan and Tehran agreed to increase the trade turnover by 2.5 times within six months, Gevorgyan shared her opinion that this was a statement of political nature.

“‘On the other hand, statements like this are not made out of the blue. It is possible that the prospects for increasing the trade volume are being discussed not only within the framework of bilateral relations, but also in the context of interregional relations. I am talking about Russia, Iraq, and other Arab countries. Iran could be of interest as a transit point,’ Gevorgyan said.

“In her opinion, these issues are being seriously discussed. And there are certainly prospects for increasing the trade volume. But this will be possible only after Armenia adopts the reindustrialization program. Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a tour of the region, holding talks in Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia.”

“Armenia, Russia And Azerbaijan… Held A Meeting On January 11 And Agreed To Create A Trilateral Negotiation Format”

“The leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan – Nikol Pashinyan, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev – held a meeting on January 11 and agreed to create a trilateral negotiation format. On January 12, it was announced that the trilateral group on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue will be headed on behalf of Armenia by Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan. The primary task of the negotiators is to determine what needs to be built or rebuilt in order to fully unblock transport links in the region.

“On January 30, members of the trilateral working group held their first meeting and agreed to establish the expert subgroups related to railway, automobile and intermodal transport; transportation, including security, border, customs, sanitary, veterinary, phytosanitary, and other types of control.”

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