Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced on Wednesday that Moscow suggests the establishment of a new format in the Caucasus, comprising three Caucasian states -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia -- and their three “big neighbors” -- Russia, Turkey, and Iran.
The format will address the issues of security, unblocking economic and transport ties, Lavrov said at a news conference following a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Moscow.
“The joint statement (by Russian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani leaders that put an end to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh) contained the principles that define joint steps to advance the settlement, including work on unblocking all transport communications, unblocking all economic ties in this region, from which not only Armenia and Azerbaijan but also Georgia will benefit.
"Iran, Russia, and Turkey, as the closest neighbors of these three republics, will also benefit from this,” the minister said.
According to Lavrov, Iran already expressed its positive attitude to the initiative, the same reaction Russia met from Turkey and Azerbaijan.
“We work with our Armenian colleagues. We hope that Georgia, despite all problems it is experiencing, will be able to see its fundamental interest in creating such a mechanism for consultations and coordination of solutions for the accelerated development of this region, which has been holding back its development for a long time due to the ongoing conflicts here,” he said.
Lavrov then urged Abdollohian to ratify the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, insisting it will ensure non-interference of foreign states in regional affairs.
“The Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea directly prohibits the presence of military forces of any non-Caspian states on the Caspian Sea. The Convention will enter into force as soon as the last instrument of ratification is received,” Lavrov said.
The issue is currently being considered in the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he added.
“I hope that the decision on ratification will be made quickly, and then the convention will fully become an international legal document ensuring the appropriate regime in the Caspian Sea,” he said.
For his part, Abdollohian said Iran is concerned over the military drills held by Azerbaijan.
“As for the South Caucasus, we have concerns. We are dissatisfied with the statement of one neighbor, we think that the neighbors of Iran should respond positively to our policy aimed at developing good neighborly relations. We will not tolerate geopolitical and map changes in the Caucasus. And we have serious concerns about the presence of terrorists and Zionists in this region.
“Azerbaijan has held six military exercises with foreign countries, I think these are provocative actions. Such a volume of exercises does not cause positive emotions. Iran held only one exercise inside its own territory and informed all countries of the region through diplomatic channels,” he said.
Iran is for dialogue with the countries of the region as a tool to avoid outside interference, Abdollohian noted.
“I hope that in the near future we will reach a point where there will be no misunderstandings and tensions, conflicts in the region,” he said.
Russia, Iran mull separate meetings on Afghanistan
Addressing the situation in Afghanistan, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran supports the formation of an inclusive Afghan government that includes all ethnic groups and is concerned about the development of terrorism and drug trafficking.
The two ministers paid special attention to facilitating the deliveries of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, he said.
Iran is going to summon a meeting of countries -- neighbors of Afghanistan -- in the near future at the level of foreign ministers and will invite Russia, he said.
“We will hold a meeting of Afghanistan's neighbor countries at the level of foreign ministers in the near future, plus Russia. We want to hold it in Tehran. Russia also wants to hold a Moscow-format conference to provide assistance to the settlement in Afghanistan. We view Iran's participation (in the conference of the Moscow format) positively,” he said.
Lavrov confirmed that the two ministers spoke about prospects for regional and international cooperation to promote the post-conflict reconstruction of Afghanistan.
"Both the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran have relevant initiatives in this regard. We talked today about how to optimally coordinate efforts to implement them," the minister also noted.