Iran urges restraint in Armenia-Azerbaijan crisis
TEHRAN - Iran on Monday urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to show restraint and offered its help to halt the worst fighting in decades between its neighbours over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.
\"The Islamic Republic of Iran will do anything to help ease the crisis,\" Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said in a telephone conversation with his Azerbaijani counterpart Zakir Hasanov.
Dehghan, quoted by state news agency IRNA, asked the two countries on Iran\'s northwestern borders to \"show restraint and (...) resolve the crisis by peaceful means\".
On the third day of the heaviest fighting in 20 years in Nagorny Karabakh, Azerbaijan said Monday that three of its soldiers were killed in overnight clashes with Armenian forces.
At least 18 Armenian, 15 Azeri troops and three civilians have been reported killed, and one of Azerbaijan\'s attack helicopters was shot down.
Iran has good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, a fellow mainly Shiite Muslim state.
The country has an Azeri-speaking community of over 10 million people, and an Armenian Christian community of just under 100,000.
The fresh outbreak of fighting over Karabakh -- which ethnic Armenian rebels seized from Azerbaijan in a war that ended with an inconclusive truce in 1994 -- erupted Friday night with the two sides accusing each other of attacking with heavy weaponry.