Iranian Shuttle Diplomacy in the Caucasus
rahul | September 17, 2008 at 07:19 pmby
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By Armin Hedayati. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Georgia Wednesday to help resolve the Caucasus crisis. Before Tbilisi he visited Russia, Republic of Azerbaijan and Germany while Armenian foreign minister was in Tehran to review the troubling regional developments. For almost six weeks the Caucasus is in the grip of a major crisis unseen after the end of the cold war. Georgia’s military strike on the breakaway republic of South Ossetia on Aug. 7 led to a series of dangerous developments. The brief war between Georgia and its powerful neighbor, declaration of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and military rumblings of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the region gave the impression that the past cold war between the Russians and western powers could transform into an actual war. Regarding Tehran’s view about the security crisis in the Caucasus, two points s have been raised. The first suggests that by utilizing the opportunity created as a result of the brewing tensions between Russia and the West, Iran could buy itself some time to resolve a few of its problems including the nuclear issue, and add to its strategic weight. The second is that continuation and intensification of conflict could eventually emerge as a threat to Iran. This is largely because the Caucasus is not far from Iran’s northern frontiers and if hostilities break out large numbers of displaced people would seek refuge in Iran. Furthermore, continuation of the belated crises between the Kremlin and Tbilisi could create the conditions for the military presence of the US and bring NATO to the volatile region, which naturally contradicts Iran’s national and security interest. Not to mention that renewed instability in the Caucasus could hinder economic cooperation among regional players and further delay plans to start joint ventures to transport energy to Europe.
It is very obvious that continuation of the tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi is not in the best interest of Tehran in the mid- and long-term. Iran has friendly relations with both sides and is trying to find a solution to the problem that seemingly does not want to go away in the near future. Tehran’s will to help this time is not new because it did the same not long ago in helping settle the deep rift between two other Caucasus states--the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia.Irrespective of the fact that whether or not Mottaki’s shuttle diplomacy will lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, what is more important is that regional powers rise to the occasion and step in to assist the belligerent sides. This can and will contribute to the interest of regional peoples while at the same time keep extraterritorial and greedy powers at bay.
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