Armenia and Azerbaijan announce first border delimitation deal since the collapse of the USSR

Armenia and Azerbaijan announce first border delimitation deal since the collapse of the USSR
Mount Ararat and the Yerevan skyline / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 22, 2024

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has praised the border delimitation agreement with Azerbaijan, saying that "for the first time, Armenia and Azerbaijan have resolved an issue around a negotiating table". 

The delimitation deal came more than three years after the first meeting of the relevant commissions were launched following Azerbaijan's victory in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020. According to the agreement, the first phase of the delimitation will start in Armenia's Tavush and Azerbaijan's Gazakh regions, with Armenia unilaterally returning the territories it captured in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan, however, is not obliged to return the Armenian territories it controls in the same area. 

Despite his recent statement that the agreement was reached through negotiations, Pashinyan earlier claimed that he agreed to unilateral concessions to stop a war in the region. Pashinyan's statements were followed by Azerbaijani state propaganda warning Armenia of another escalation if it delays the return of the villages. Azerbaijan had demanded the villages’ return as a precondition for a peace deal.

Amidst Pashinyan's praise, however, protests have erupted among residents of border communities in Tavush province of Armenia, expressing concerns over the implications of the delimitation and demarcation process. Tavush residents are concerned that the delimitation and demarcation process would result in the loss of access to farmlands and increased vulnerability to attacks.

In response, Pashinyan reassured the public that the government would take steps to mitigate risks. He stated, "We don't have a front line here, but will have a border, and the border is a sign of peace". He also reaffirmed Armenia's commitment to safeguarding its sovereignty.

Pashinyan also confirmed the withdrawal of Russian border guards from Tavush post-delimitation. He stated: "The border guards of Armenia and Azerbaijan will be able to independently protect the border by interacting with each other," highlighting a new phase of cooperation.

Armenia has also recently requested Russian soldiers withdraw from Yerevan airport, as he moves to reorientate the country's foreign policy. The Armenian premier has also stressed the vital importance of reaching a peace agreement with Azerbaijan, even if it means concessions as well as the abandoning of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Baku reconquered in December.

Internationally, the United States and the European Union expressed support for the border delimitation process, viewing it as a positive step towards sustainable peace. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan hailed the agreement as a historic milestone, celebrating the return of villages under Armenian control since the 1990s.