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Armenia-Azerbaijan border clashes: Iran ready to help ease tensions

Iran has expressed its readiness to help soothe tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the wake of deadly border clashes between the two South Caucasus countries, calling on both sides to engage in dialog.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran held separate telephone conversations on Tuesday with his Azeri and Armenian counterparts, Elmar Mammadyarov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, respectively.

During the calls, Zarif advised both sides to exercise restraint and initiate talks aimed at resolving rifts peacefully.

He also voiced Iran’s readiness to help bring an end to tensions between the two former Soviet republics.

The clashes broke out on the volatile Armenia-Azerbaijan border on Sunday and have continued over the past days.

At least 16 people, including four Armenian troops, 11 Azeri servicemen and one Azeri civilian, have been killed in the worst outbreak of hostilities between the two neighbors.

Officials in both countries have blamed each other for initiating the fighting.

For years, the two neighbors have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Baku and Yerevan continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh.

The latest flare-up, however, occurred far from Nagorno-Karabakh and directly between the two states.

‘Diplomacy only way out of crisis’

In a tweet on Tuesday, the Iranian president’s chief of staff called for calm and voiced Tehran’s readiness to play mediator.

Mahmoud Vaezi wrote that the skirmishes “threaten both countries’ interests as well as regional stability and calm and is cause for worry.”

He said the sole way out of the crisis is a political settlement of the disputes while taking into account the interests and territorial integrity of both states.

“With a past record of mediation b/w the two countries and given its neighborly relations, I.R. Iran will spare no effort to help,” he added.

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