Politics 17:06 23/12/2023 Armenia

Expert: Delusions about 'lasting peace' in South Caucasus will be dispelled in 2024

2023 was a tense and complicated year for the South Caucasus region and its countries with armed conflicts, losses... The Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the settlement of relations between Yerevan and Baku, Iran, Russia remained in the spotlight of the international community this year. Many statements about peace were also made.

In an interview with Panorama.am, Iran specialist Vardan Voskanyan, head of the Iranian Studies Department of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Yerevan State University (YSU), summed up the outgoing year, claiming delusions about "lasting peace" in the South Caucasus will be dispelled in 2024.

Panorama.am: What was 2023 like for Armenian-Iranian relations? Who is to blame for the failure to fully utilize the current potential in bilateral relations? What expectations should we have for 2024 and what is the reason for the occasional warming of relations between Azerbaijan and Iran?

Vardan Voskanyan: It was a rather difficult year for both Armenia and Iran. The year 2023 was tough for us in particular: we witnessed a complete occupation of Artsakh by the barbaric regime of Baku, genocide against its indigenous Armenian population and ethnic cleansing. As for Iran, it is worth noting the strengthening of the positions of the Azerbaijani-Turkish tandem in the region, as well as the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip. The year was tough for both states [Armenia and Iran], full of losses for Armenia. I think that these losses should wake us up, so that we can bounce back as quickly as possible and strive for the re-liberation of the occupied territories.

In fact, in order to understand the prospects of Armenian-Iranian relations, we must clearly define the vision of the Armenia state, i.e. what kind of state we seek to build. Obviously, there are two hostile forces in the region that, in fact, have formed common geopolitical and expansionist aspirations. It’s about the Aliyev and Erdogan regimes. At the same time, Armenia has two friendly neighbors: Georgia and Iran. It is pretty clear that Armenia has no chance to normalize relations with the enemy tandem: a few months ago, the barbaric Baku regime committed genocidal against the Artsakh Armenians. And, incidentally, it is not going to take any actions aimed at the withdrawal of its bashibozuks from the occupied territories of Armenia. Therefore, the agenda of Armenian-Iranian relations should be shaped based on the vision of the state of Armenia. It should imply the formation of a North-South axis and the work with Iran should focus on it.

There are programs that are important not only in terms of economy, but also security and geopolitics. It concerns the transportation hub connecting the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea, as well as the issue of Armenia's involvement in the North-South project, which is crucial for us.

Panorama.am: Which sphere of the Armenian-Iranian cooperation have the greatest potential? And how would you assess the current level of Armenian-Iranian relations?

Vardan Voskanyan: The potential of Armenian-Iranian relations is extremely great, I’d say colossal. Unfortunately, we have been talking about it for years, but we do not realize at least the overwhelming part of this potential. Naturally, especially in the period after the 44-day war, Iran plays a key role in deterring the Azerbaijani-Turkish tandem. Therefore, defense cooperation has gained special relevance in Armenian-Iranian relations. Failure to utilize this potential should be regarded as an unjustified waste at least in our public discourse.

Panorama.am: Now we are witnessing some positive dynamics in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, if not warming. What processes are taking place now in relations between the two countries and what can they lead to?

Vardan Voskanyan: The problems in Iran-Azerbaijan relations are so diverse and profound that there is essentially no solution to most of them. It is obvious that the artificial entity called Azerbaijan and its identity have been anchored on anti-Armenianism on the one hand and anti-Iranism on the other. Therefore, any thaw in Azerbaijani-Iranian relations will lead to the rejection of Azerbaijan’s identity, which is impossible.

Problems do exist, but the Iranian side, as well as the barbaric Baku regime obviously want to manage the existing risks. Azerbaijan is trying to use relations with Iran to put pressure on Armenia.

Source Panorama.am
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