Progress seen in talks to settle Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

Progress seen in talks to settle Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict
The meeting did not mention the possible lifting of the Azerbaijani blockade, which has led to food, medicine, and other essential item running short in Karabakh. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews March 2, 2023
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced that Armenia has handed over a new version of a proposed peace treaty to Azerbaijan and that he was ready to sign the document as soon as possible to guarantee lasting peace and stability in the region. 
In another sign that diplomatic wheels might finally be in motion to settle relations between the two South Caucasian neighbours, representatives of Azerbaijan and its breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians, have held what is described as a "constructive meeting".  Armenia and Azerbaijan last fought a war over the enclave in 2020, in which Baku recovered most of the land it had lost in fighting in the early 1990s.
During a government Q&A session in parliament,  Pashinyan stated that Armenia has yet to receive a response to the draft peace treaty it sent to Baku earlier this year. He said: "When we receive their answer, it will take some time to prepare a response and I guess there will be a reaction after some time." Pashinyan also mentioned three stages of work on the draft peace treaty, with Azerbaijan putting forward its proposal and Armenia responding, and that work in this direction should continue.
Azerbaijan's peace proposals unveiled last year included fundamental principles on which it wants the future peace accord with Armenia to be based. These principles include mutual recognition of each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, joint reaffirmation of the absence of territorial claims on each other, a legally binding obligation not to make such claims in the future, abstaining from threatening each other's security, demarcation of the border, and unblocking of transport links. Pashinyan noted that the proposals made earlier by Armenia regarding opening communications, ensuring border security, and border demarcation all continue to be in force.
In another key development, Lusine Avanesyan, a spokesperson for the Nagorno-Karabakh president, described the latest meeting between representatives of Karabakh and Azerbaijan, facilitated by the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, as "constructive" and said the breakaway enclave hoped that results would not be long in coming. 
The first meeting between Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials occurred on February 24, the day after Harutiunyan dismissed his chief minister, Ruben Vardanyan, something that Baku had demanded throughout the blockade.
Karabakh President Arayik Harutiunyan said that Stepanakert would continue to resist the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh but would not avoid contacts with Baku to address humanitarian and infrastructure-related issues.
"Encouraging news from Khojaly today regarding contacts between Baku representatives and Karabakh Armenians. Good that discussions appear to have focused both on immediate concerns and broader issues," EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar tweeted.
During a regular meeting of the official representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan held on Wednesday, humanitarian and infrastructural issues were discussed, including the restoration of uninterrupted movement of people, vehicles, and goods through the Lachin corridor, restoration of electricity supply from Armenia, continuous supply of natural gas, as well as the operation of the Kashen mine. 
Since December 12, so-called environmental protesters backed by the Azerbaijani government blocked the only road connecting Karabakh to Armenia after the Karabakh Armenians refused to allow inspections. The authorities in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert and Yerevan have rejected the protesters' demands, considering them a pretext for cutting off Karabakh from the outside world. These protests persist regardless of an ICJ court ruling last month to ensure the passage of all civilians and all traffic. 
The Azerbaijani negotiators, including the head of a "monitoring group" investigating "illegal" mining operations in Karabakh, discussed the Karabakh Armenians' "integration into Azerbaijan" at a meeting, according to an Azerbaijani readout of the meeting cited by the APA news agency. The meeting did not mention the possible lifting of the blockade, which has led to food, medicine, and other essential item running short in Karabakh.
The Azerbaijani authorities have appointed Ramin Mammadov, a member of the parliament, to be responsible for contacts with Karabakh Armenians, Azerbaijani media reported. The Nagorno-Karabakh representatives included Samvel Shahramanyan, the Security Council Secretary of Karabakh.
The meeting, mediated by the commander of the Russian peacekeepers, took place the day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Baku. Lavrov expressed Russia's opposition to Azerbaijani efforts to set up a checkpoint at the Lachin corridor and suggested that Russian peacekeepers could use "technical means" to address Azerbaijani concerns.
Baku has accused Armenia of smuggling landmines to Karabakh through the corridor, violating the 2020 ceasefire brokered by Moscow, a claim that the Armenian side has strongly denied. Seyran Hayrapetyan, a senior Karabakh lawmaker, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service that Stepanakert was willing to discuss the idea of installing X-ray scanners in the corridor. Still, they must be operated and controlled only by Russian peacekeepers.

Related Content