Manila Standard – Sep 7, 1993
MOSCOW — Russia urged Iran on Tuesday not to meddle In the Armenian-Azerbaijani war and prepared a similar message for Turkey, making clear Moscow is ready to defend the Caucasus border of the former Soviet Union. The Foreign Ministry statement preceded a visit Wednesday by Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, who threatened last week to ask for a declaration of war against Armenia if it captured more Azerbaijani territory.
Iran and Turkey in the last week have reinforced troops along their borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia, who have been fighting a five-year war over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory located within Azerbaijan. An estimated 15,000 people have been killed and 1 million made into refugees by the war. Armenian victories in recent months have alarmed Turkey and Iran, which have backed Azerbaijan diplomatically.
Turkey said it is uniting with Iran against the Christian Armenians, although the nations are competing with each other for political and economic influence in muslim Azerbaijan.
According to Turkish and Azerbaijani officials last week, Iranian border guards or armed citizens penetrated about three kilometers (two miles) into Azerbaijan in the Holda-Assam area to protect a jointly operated dam.
The area is near the Azerbaijani town of Zangelan, which Baku says Armenian forces shelled last week. Azerbaijan’s acting president, Geidar Allev, cited the incident to show his government could not control its own border.
Iran has not confirmed the incursion, although it did condemn Armenian aggression this week and demanded Nagorno-Karabakh forces pull back.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday joined the criticism of Armenians forces, but cautioned Teheran about what it said were “armed Iranians” crossing to Azerbaijan. “Such actions by the Iranian side, whatever their motives, cannot meet with our support,” ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin said at a news conference in Moscow. He warned against “Internationalizing” the war.
Karasin added that Russia too was concerned about Armenian advances outside Nagorno-Karabakh toward the Iranian border. Russia wants to improve relations with both Turkey and Iran, but the statements illustrate how it is drawing the line at military, political or religious interference in what it calls its “near abroad.”
President Boris Yeltsin’s government adopted a similar stance in Central Asia, beefing up its forces along the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan to stop what it calls a flood of drugs, weapons and Islamic fundamentalism. In Moscow Tuesday, the visiting Azerbaijani leader, Aliev, supported Russia by saying his country may announce this month it will join the Commonwealth of Independent States, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported. Turkish officials initially feared a loss of influence when Allev came to power in Azerbaijan in June during a military rebellion against pro-Turkish President Abulfaz Elchibey. (AP)