TEHRAN: Iran’s president warned that fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus could trigger a regional war as the death toll rose on the 11th day of hostilities.
More than 300 have now died in the renewed fighting in and around the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which under international law belongs to Azerbaijan but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
Azerbaijan says Azeri cities outside the conflict zone have also been attacked in the deadliest fighting in more than 25 years, taking the fighting closer to territory from which pipelines carry Azeri gas and oil to Europe.
Iran, which borders both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has been talking to both the former Soviet republics as concern mounts that Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia, could be sucked into the conflict.
“We must be attentive that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan does not become a regional war,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in televised remarks.
“Peace is the basis of our work and we hope to restore stability to the region in a peaceful way.”
He said Iran would not allow “states to send terrorists to our borders under various pretexts”.
In a new call for a ceasefire, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a television interview that the events were a tragedy and Moscow was deeply concerned.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, said on Tuesday the conflict was attracting people he described as mercenaries and terrorists from the Middle East.