What was the Tehran Declaration of May 1992?

The Tehran Declaration (also called the Tehran Communiqué) was the consequence of Iran’s mediation effort to reduce hostilities and achieve a ceasefire between the parties involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Since the beginning of 1992, an Iranian delegation made several visits to the region and engaged in intensive negotiations with officials from the republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After having preliminary negotiations with the many qualified and high-ranking representatives of the parties, the Mediatory Delegation of Iran prepared the settlement plan for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The most important part of the plan was formulated as follows: – A transitory and then permanent ceasefire; Deployment of observers to monitor the ceasefire and to comply with agreements; Exchanging prisoners and the bodies of killed soldiers; Removing economic sanctions imposed on Karabakh by Azerbaijan; Opening of transportation and communication routes to or within Karabakh; Forming committees for the return of displaced people concurrent with the removal of sanctions; Humanitarian aid to Karabakh; Beginning negotiations for the determination of Karabakh’s legal status.[1] A transitory ceasefire, which was enforced on March 21, 1992, and lasted only a few days, was announced as a first step in the peace process by the Iranian delegation, which highlighted a transitory ceasefire as “a necessary step in establishing confidence among the parties and providing an opportunity to cool down the dispute.”[2]

After some success according to the plan formulated by the Iranian mediation delegation in March 1992, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, invited the leaders of the conflicting parties to Tehran for further negotiations over the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Upon receiving the Iranian President’s invitation, Yakub Mamedov, the Acting President of the Azerbaijan Republic, and Levan Ter-Petrosyan, the President of the Armenian Republic, paid an official visit to Tehran in May 1992. As a result of the two-day trilateral negotiations, the heads of state made a joint statement on May 7, which they called the Tehran Declaration. Under the terms of the statement, the parties agreed to hold periodic high-level meetings. While taking international legal norms and the UN Charter as a base, the parties emphasized the need to avoid further military escalation in the region, provide security, peace, and stability on the borders, and normalize and develop bilateral relations between the countries at different levels by peaceful means. The parties also agreed that “after conducting negotiations with the concerned sides and with the support of the heads of state of Azerbaijan and Armenia, ceasefire is established and simultaneously all communications roads are open with the purpose of meeting all economic needs.”[3] The efforts of the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve peace and stability at regional and international levels were described as Iranian Realpolitic by Abdollah Ramezanzadeh. He made the following points in this regard:

  • Iran is aiming at a rapid solution to the conflict, for obvious security reasons. The military operations along its borders represent an immediate danger to Iran’s security. A prolongation would lead to a strengthening of the role of Russia, which might be tempted to settle the conflict on its own terms and contrary to Iran’s security interests.
  • A prolongation of the conflict would lead to an even greater flight of refugees from the war-torn neighboring areas. At present, Iran is already hosting about 4 million refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • A balance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan is the second goal of Iran’s mediating policy. Iran is in favor of neither a powerful Christian Armenianor a powerful Azerbaijan, which might cherish territorial claims on Iranian Azeri regions.
  • The Azeri-Armenian conflict is preventing Iran from making full use of its newly acquired access to Europe.
  • Iran needs to contain Turkish (and US) influence in the region… Turkey has been considered by the US administration as a “model” with a “leading role in the region’s politics,” which all the newly independent states in the region were encouraged to follow.With the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Iranian leadership had the opportunity to take advantage of Turkey’s “Achilles’ heel.”[4]

However, despite all Iran’s efforts, the mediation process soon halted when Armenian forces occupied Shusha on May 8. Following the occupation of this region, the Foreign Minister of Iran expressed his country’s concern regarding the new military operation by the Armenians and called the parties to act according to the Tehran Declaration and “refrain from any military action, which could aggravate the crisis.”[5] According to Vaezi Mahmoud, “The seizure of Shusha… surprised the Armenian and Azeri high-ranking delegations, who were still in Tehran. The primary perception at that time suggested that the Armenian side as a whole, including Armenians inhabiting in Karabakh and Yerevan, had not adhered to the ceasefire.”[6] Consequently, the Armenians undermined Iran’s mediation efforts, which intended to end one of the most complicated and bloodiest conflicts in the territory of the former Soviet Union. The occupation of Shusha was followed by the occupation of the Lachin district of Azerbaijan, which allowed Armenia to create a land bridge between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

[1] Vaezi, Mahmoud, “Karabakh’s Crisis: Iran’s Mediation and the Aftermath,” Center for Strategic Research, December 14, 2008; http://www.isrjournals.com/en/iran-foreign-policy/811-karabakhs-crisis-irans-mediation-and-the-aftermath.html. Accessed on December 2, 2022.

[2] Vaezi, “Karabakh’s Crisis: Iran’s Mediation and the Aftermath”.

[3] “Joint Statement of the Heads of State in Tehran,” May 7, 1992. Retrieved from; https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/ArmeniaAzerbaijanIran_JointStatementHeadsofState1992.pdf. Accessed on December 2, 2022.

[4] Ramezanzadeh, Abdollah, “Iran’s Role as Mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis,” in Coppieters, Bruno (ed.), Contested Borders in the Caucasus (VUB Press, 1996).

[5] Ramezanzadeh, “Iran’s Role as Mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis”.

[6] Vaezi, “Karabakh’s Crisis: Iran’s Mediation and the Aftermath”.