Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts peace talks with Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has hosted talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Putin invited Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to the southern Russian city of Sochi for talks and also held bilateral meetings with the two leaders.
After the meeting, Putin said: “We have agreed on a number of issues that I consider to be key. The first of them is the creation of mechanisms … by the end of this year for the demarcation and delimitation of the border between the two countries. Hope this happens as soon as possible. There are no obstacles to the creation of these mechanisms.”
Aliyev and Pashinyan both said they were prepared to work on demarcating their border.
They also addressed the issue of rebuilding Soviet-era transport links which are closed by a mutual blockade.
Armenia and Azerbaijan both claim Nagorno-Karabakh. It is inside Azerbaijan but has a largely ethnically Armenian population and was under Yeravan’s control since an armed conflict ended in 1994.
The disputed region broke away from Azerbaijan following a war after the Soviet Union’s collapse and subsequent fighting between the neighbours. Last year’s war resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control over vast parts of the disputed territory.
Azerbaijan crushed the Armenian military in the 44-day war that started in September 2020, claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russia-negotiated peace agreement that handed control of much of Nagorno-Karabakh to Baku.
Tensions on the border have been growing since May when Armenia condemned an alleged incursion by Azerbaijani forces into its territory. Azerbaijan said its troops were deployed within its territory where the border had not been demarcated.
Almost 2,000 Russian peacekeepers have been stationed around Nagorno-Karabakh for at least five years to monitor the agreement.
The peace deal was condemned as a humiliating betrayal by Armenia’s opposition but Pashinyan said it prevented the defeated Armenian military from losing the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Border tensions re-emerged in May and several clashes have been reported since, with some causing major casualties on both sides.
Aliyev said border clashes had only been sporadic rather than making up a systemic crisis. He, however, admitted that tripartite negotiations were needed as part of “controlling the risks, minimising them”.
Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh before it was damaged in 2020. Picture credit: Wikimedia