TEHRAN (Iran News) – 3+3 format on Karabakh: The best way forward. With tensions in the South Caucasus subsiding by the day, diplomatic contacts between the countries of the region take on a renewed importance in terms of avoiding misunderstanding.
Over the past few days, several meetings and phone conversations were held between officials and diplomats from the Republic of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, and Iran, marking a remarkable rise in diplomatic interactions involving the key stakeholders of the South Caucasus region.
Of all the statements resulting from these interactions, remarks by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexei Overchuk during his visit to Armenia stood out as the most important development in the region.
Overchuk met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and discussed a number of issues, particularly the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
It seems that the most important issue discussed by Overchuk and Pashinyan was the opening of transit links in the region, especially those connecting Azerbaijan with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic.
During the meeting, Pashinyan complained that “Azerbaijan is trying to impose its perceptions on the commission” tasked with following up on the statements of November 9 and January 11, which refer to the unblocking of all transport and economic ties in the region.
“Armenia should get road and railway communication routes through Azerbaijan; Azerbaijan should receive railway and road communication routes through Armenia, including one connecting Azerbaijan to the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic,” Pashinyan told Overchuk, according to ARMENPRESS.
The Russian official, in turn, pointed to the transport links in the region and said that Azerbaijan and Armenia, together with Russia, have reached a “very good understanding” of the links.
Overchuk then uttered something for the first time in public: the links would be under the jurisdiction of countries using them.
“The roads remain under the jurisdiction of the countries through which they pass,” he said.
This has once again raised alarm bells in Tehran which has repeatedly warned that it accepts no change in the international borders in the Caucasus region.
The Russian official did not openly say that the transit links between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan would be under the jurisdiction of Baku. But it goes without saying that Azerbaijan would be the first country to use them. So, did Overchuk mean that Armenia would give away its border with Iran? There is no clear answer yet.
And this ambiguity is another reason for Russia, as the lead mediator in the region, to work closely with all countries involved in the Caucasus region, including Iran, which shares borders with both Azerbaijan and Armenia and is concerned that changes in Armenia’s southern border would come at an irreversible geopolitical cost for it.
This may explain Iran’s quick diplomatic moves on Saturday to get support from the region’s stakeholders for reviving a regional platform called 3+3 format that includes Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia and their three big neighbors- Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
The format was proposed by Russia in early October but has since been shelved. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian expressed support for the format during his Saturday phone conversations with his Russian and Azerbaijani counterparts.
During conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Amir Abdollahian said, “Iran supports regional talks in the format of 3+3 or other formats upon which all sides agree in order to resolve the disputes in the region and to expand regional cooperation.”
He reiterated this message in the conversation with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, underlining that “Iran supports regional talks in the format of 3+3 or other formats and believes regional problems can be resolved using regional mechanisms.”
But despite the Iranian insistence, differences between Azerbaijan and Armenia are being addressed in a trilateral format rather than the 3+3 one. And the trilateral formant seems to have not ensured the interests of all the stakeholders.
Overchuk said he held 8 meetings with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts, with the last meeting being held on October 22. “Based on these data, after the 8th session of the joint working group held on October 22, it seems to us that we will reach concrete solutions,” he said.
And these solutions have apparently resulted in giving Azerbaijan full control over Iran-Armenia borders.