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Iran Welcomes Readiness of Azerbaijan, Armenia to Settle Differences

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the country hails the readiness of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to ease tensions and resolve their differences.

“Intensive talks in Azerbaijan & Armenia on bilateral ties & recent tensions,” he wrote in a post on his Twitter account on Wednesday after visits to Baku and Yerevan.

“Iran has always insisted on respect for territorial integrity of all. We welcome readiness of leaders on both sides to reach dignified mutual arrangements. Huge possibilities for regional cooperation,” he added.

In his meetings with top Armenian officials, including President Armen Sarksyan, earlier in the day, Zarif reaffirmed Iran’s principled policy vis-� -vis the Karabakh dispute since the 1990s and underscored the need to respect the territorial integrity of all regional countries as well as peaceful settlement of conflicts.

He pointed to Iran’s efforts over the past months to contribute to a peaceful resolution of regional disputes. While voicing concerns over the recent confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the top diplomat stressed the need for the parties to the conflict to show restraint, respect each other’s territorial integrity and make efforts to resolve disputes through dialogue.

Zarif said Iran is unsettled by any tension in the region and highlighted safeguarding internationally recognized borders as well as countries’ territorial integrity as a red line of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He also hoped that regional tensions, including the Baku-Yerevan dispute, would further decrease so that countries of the region could move towards stability and increase interactions for the sake of the peoples of the region.

Prior to his visit to Yerevan, Zarif went to Baku, where he sat down for talks with Azerbaijan’s officials, including President Ilham Aliyev, on Tehran-Baku relations as well as major issues of regional and international significance.

The top Iranian diplomat’s visit to the capitals of the two neighboring countries comes as Tehran has been seeking to further enhance diplomatic efforts especially since last year when fresh clashes broke out between the two ex-Soviet republics over Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has been occupied by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992 when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

Six weeks of fighting, which erupted in late September, were brought to a close with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts.

The two sides, however, accuse each other of violating the fragile ceasefire, with tensions still high after last September’s war.

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