UPDATES WITH DETAILS OF TRILATERAL MEETING, EDITS IN HEADLINE, BODY, DECK
By Elena Teslova
MOSCOW (AA) - After a meeting with the Russian president on Friday, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia expressed readiness to start the process of demarcation and delimitation of their contested border.
After last year’s six-week war, Azerbaijan retook Nagorno-Karabakh and other regions from nearly three-decade-long Armenian occupation.
This resulted in the shifting of border posts, leading to fresh tensions between the former Soviet states this May. While Yerevan accused Azerbaijan of advancing into Armenian territory, Baku maintained that its troops took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the border.
Armenia then approached the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russia-led political-military bloc, for intervention.
Since then, Russia, which brokered the November 2020 cease-fire agreement that ended last year’s war, has mediated talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia to end the conflict. It has also deployed a peacekeeping mission to the region.
At the trilateral meeting in the Russian resort city of Sochi, Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev, and Nikol Pashinyan agreed that significant progress has been made on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement over the past year.
Putin noted the absence of large-scale hostilities, return of around 53,000 refugees, and exchange of detainees. "The most important thing is that conditions are being created for normalization," he said.
He welcomed the decision of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to meet in Brussels next month, saying direct communication will help normalize the situation.
For Moscow, normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan is of particular importance, taking into account the "special character" of Russia's relations with these countries, he said.
Earlier, the Russian president regretted that armed clashes continue on and off in the Nagorno-Karabakh region despite existing peace treaties, leading to more casualties.
- Baku suggests peace treaty
Addressing Putin and Pashinyan, Aliyev said the situation in the area under Russian peacekeepers is stable, with neither serious incidents nor "deliberate provocations."
"I would like to thank the Russian peacekeeping contingent for their good service ... they provide security in the region, which for many years was in a state of frozen conflict, and last year saw a full-scale war," he said.
He said due to Azerbaijan's dedication, almost all provisions of the Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani trilateral cease-fire agreement have been fulfilled.
Aliyev said Baku is ready to start the process of border delimitation without delay, and suggested work on a new peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan "to put an end to the confrontation, recognize each other's territorial integrity, sovereignty and live in the future as neighbors."
- Yerevan for direct contact with Baku
Pashinyan also praised the work of the Russian peacekeepers, saying "they play a key role in stabilizing the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the region."
"But I want to emphasize that unfortunately, the situation is not as stable as we would like. Since Nov. 9, dozens of people have already died on both sides," he said.
Besides the issue of border delimitation, Pashinyan offered to discuss the problem of detainees and prisoners of war.
The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement should be considered in different formats, including direct contacts, he noted.
"Armenia is ready to start the process of delimitation and demarcation, and discussion on opening of transportation is also important for us. We are sincerely interested in resolving these issues," Pashinyan said. "We are interested in concluding a peace treaty, and direct contacts are planned between Azerbaijani and Armenian officials."