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Iran to host Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process talks amid Middle East tensions

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© FILE PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian speaks during a joint press conference with Lebanon’s caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib ( not pictured ) in Beirut, Lebanon October 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

DUBAI/MOSCOW () – Foreign ministers from Iran, Turkey and Russia will meet their counterparts from Azerbaijan and Armenia in Tehran on Monday and discuss progress towards a peace agreement between the two South Caucasus neighbours, Iranian and Russian state media said.

The first meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan after the September lightning offensive by Azeri forces in Nagorno-Karabakh will also take place amid rising tensions in the Middle East.

IRNA news agency quoted the foreign ministry as saying the countries wanted to talk about regional issues “without the interference of non-regional and Western countries”.

That was an implicit reference to the United States and the European Union, whose involvement in the search for a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan has particularly annoyed Moscow.

Russia’s Interfax news agency said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would travel to Tehran for the meeting.

Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has sought to firm up military and diplomatic ties with countries outside the traditional West. Lavrov has met his Iranian counterpart several times since.

Russia regards itself as the security guarantor between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but the demands and distractions of its war in Ukraine have led to a weakening of its influence.

Azerbaijan last month staged a lightning offensive to regain control of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh where ethnic Armenians had enjoyed de facto independence since breaking away in the 1990s.

More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians were forced to flee and Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of carrying out ethnic cleansing – a claim Azerbaijan denies, saying people were free to stay and be integrated into Azerbaijan.

The two countries have fought two wars in the past three decades and have so far failed to reach a peace deal despite long-running efforts by the United States, EU and Russia.

The so-called 3+3 South Caucasus Platform, which first held talks in 2021, were to include also Georgia, but Georgia has stated previously it did not plan to participate in the initiative and said on Sunday it will not be coming to Teheran.

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