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Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has denied media reports that weaponry and military hardware are transported via to Armenia Iran’s territory, amid ongoing fierce battles between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran carefully monitors and controls the trend of transportation and transit of commodities to other countries [via its soil] and does not allow our country’s soil to be used for the transfer of arms and ammunition whatsoever,” Khatibzadeh said on September 29, according to the official website of the Iranian foreign ministry.
He said the transit of conventional non-military items through Iran to neighboring countries has always been underway, adding that “the mentioned trucks are crossing Iran simply within the same framework”.
Furthermore, in a telephone conversation with a deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev on September 30, Iranian President’s Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi dismissed rumors that Iran has supported Armenia amid the flare-up of the fighting.
Vaezi underlined Iran’s respect for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and said that “such rumors are totally baseless and aimed at upsetting the good relations between Iran and Azerbaijan”.
He also expressed concern about the armed clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces, and said that Tehran is closely and seriously monitoring the developments and is ready for any help to settle the conflict through dialogue within the framework of international law.
Some news and social media reports asserted that Iran provides its airspace, as well as its territory for the transportation of military equipment and weaponry to Armenia, as well as supplying the separatist army of the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh with fuel. In return, “Armenia allows transportation through its territory of supplies for the Iranian nuclear and missile programs,” according to the research organization The Greater Middle East.
On September 30, the Iranian state-owned TV IRIB news confirmed social media footage of brand new Kamaz trucks crossing borders into Armenia, saying the latter had bought them from Russia. However, in their interviews with the TV, the drivers in Norduz border point denied their lorries were “loaded with weapons and munitions.
The drivers also said that a total of 670 lorries will be delivered to Armenia, and 600 of them have still not departed Iran’s Anzali port that located the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.
Baku had earlier voiced concern about reports of large arms shipments from Russia to Armenia during and after the fighting in Azerbaijan’s north-eastern region of Tovuz on the border with Armenia on July 12-16.
On September 7, the Iranian Embassy in Baku refuted reports circulated by Azerbaijani media suggesting that Russian weapons and military equipment bound for Armenia were delivered through Iran’s Norduz border point in the country’s East Azerbaijan province.
The Meghri-Norduz border crossing point is the only land border between Armenia and Iran. There are Free Economic Zones operating on both sides.
Iran has over 30 million ethnic Azerbaijanis and an Armenian community of just under 100,000.
Last month, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev complained to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about Moscow’s arms sales to Armenia amid the outbreak of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mid-July.
Azerbaijan also uncovered regular flights of military cargo from Russia to Armenia, that were forced to make a detour on their way to Armenia after Georgia refused to give them permission to use its airspace between July 17 and August 6. Heavy cargo-carrying aircrafts were forced to take a much longer route stretching from Russia to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.
The military forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan started a new round of clashes over the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 27, which is the heaviest fighting between the two countries in past three decades. Currently, combat operations are being conducted along the line of contact.