Iran, Turkey And Azerbaijan To Strengthen Their Joint Cooperation

Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan are determined to strengthen their joint cooperation as a result of their similar stances on developments in the Middle East, according to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

He made the remark at a joint press conference with his Turkish and Azerbaijani counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu and Elmar Mammadyarov, respectively in Istanbul. The meeting was their sixth trilateral meeting.

“Cooperation among Tehran, Ankara and Baku is very important for development of the three countries, development of the region, the improvement of living conditions and the promotion of regional peace and security which is unfortunately facing with multiple challenges,” the Iranian said.

He also expressed his hope of a peaceful solution to the Syrian, Palestinian and Yemeni people’s woes.

“We have always emphasized that regional issues should be settled based on [the principles of] international law and through peaceful methods,” Zarif said.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said that the three countries oppose unilateral measures on regional issues and claimed that multilateral decisions need to be made. He further added that issues in the region should be solved peacefully and through dialogue.

He further reiterated that continuing joint cooperation to promote stability, peace and security as well as trilateral economic ties are in the interest of all three countries.

Turkey will also continue its cooperation with Iran to combat the US sanctions imposed after the withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Cavusoglu also said that Turkey was holding consultations with EU countries on ways to cooperate with Iran.

He emphasized that the US had taken the wrong path by threatening and using blackmail instead of dialogue, saying it was impossible for any country to trust Washington.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister called for further ties with Iran and Turkey in trade and transportation.

In regard to Azerbaijan, this meeting is of significance, because it strengthens the country’s positions in the region.

It has strong ties with Turkey and Russia as well as further improved relations with Iran. This is further reinforced by Armenia’s new government that is moving away from Russia. This presents an opportunity for Azerbaijan in the Nagorno Karabakh issue with Armenia.

On October 25th, US Security Adviser John Bolton visited Yerevan. Prior to that he held talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Baku.

At a news briefing after those discussions, he pledged that Washington would continue to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Baku and Yerevan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

He further was cited by Radio Free Liberty that that he and Pashinian “talked a lot, obviously, about Nagorno-Karabakh,” and that he is aware of the economic difficulties Armenia faces as a result of the “geographical situation and historical antecedents” related to the conflict.

In solidarity with Baku over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey has, like Azerbaijan, closed its border to Armenia.

Iran, however, demonstrated the improving economic relations between it and Armenia by announcing that the two countries are to jointly build an oil refinery by the border between its Aras Free Zone (AFZ) and Armenia’s Meghri Free Economic Zone (MFEZ). If this falls through, Armenia’s only Georgia as a regional trading partner.

The US is also willing to explore weapon sales to Yerevan. According to Bolton these sales would not violate US Congress restrictions on such sales to Azerbaijan and Armenia because of the status of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that his talks with Bolton were held in “an extremely positive atmosphere.”

“I think there is a real opportunity to bring Armenia-U.S. relations to a new level. And we are ready to take advantage of this opportunity,” he wrote on Facebook.

Russia responded to Bolton’s visit on October 29th. Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that White House National Security Adviser’s comments during his visit to Yerevan last week amounted to him “demanding openly that Armenia renounce historical patterns in its international relations and [he] hardly bothered to conceal the fact that this implied Armenia’s traditional friendship with Russia.”

“Naturally, he did not forget to advertise US weapons that Armenia should buy instead of Russian weapons,” the statement went on.

Asked by reporters on October 27th whether Yerevan would set out to acquire military equipment from the US, Pashinian said:

“The [Armenian] government is not constrained by anything. If there is an offer from the United States that is good for us, we will discuss it.”

On October 30th, Azerbaijani MP Zahid Oruj said that to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict it would be better if negotiations are held directly between Azerbaijani and Armenian leadership, without including international circles.

Azer News posted a piece by Abdul Kerimkhanov which looks through Armenia’s options, which according to him were somewhat diminished by John Bolton’s remarks.

According to the analysis, Azerbaijan has good relations with the US and it is a strategic partner. Armenia could also have a similar relationship, however Prime Minister Panishyan needs to be decisive in resolving the Nagorno Karabakh issue if he wins the elections.

“Only when making a decision, one should bear in mind that Azerbaijan definitely possesses diplomatic, economic and military advantages. Moreover, truth and legality are on the side of Azerbaijan,” Kerimkhanov said. “Armenian leadership should understand that political instability, stemming from unresolved conflict, causes loss of population and economic problems.”

Furthermore, the analysis looks into something that is apparent – the worsening Armenian ties with Moscow, which has  for a long time been and remains a guarantor of Armenian security. However, the new Armenian government seems to be stepping aside from its regional ally and shifts its policy towards the US.

“Moreover, it is obvious that the team of the acting prime minister is not strong enough – it concerns both internal and external political course of the country. Some appointments of Pashinyan have already caused bewilderment and criticism. This also applies to some practical steps that can be called excessively harsh and thoughtless – especially those that worsened the relations with Moscow.”

If, following the elections in Armenia, there is still no political will or decisiveness, it really would be an ample opportunity for Azerbaijan to undertake action.

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