Talks continue between Armenia and Azerbaijan but tricky issues remain
Armenia’s Security Council secretary Armen Grigoryan told the media: “Armenia is ready for the demarcation and delimitation works. We have already openly announced this. Right now no work is being done, we are waiting for Azerbaijan’s response.”
He said he hoped Azerbaijan will respond positively and that work can start to address the border crisis.
Armenia has effectively abandoned its claim to the seven Azerbaijani territories it previously occupied surrounding what was the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast under Soviet run.
But Yerevan continues to demand control over Nagorno-Karabakh itself, with its largely ethnically Armenian population. This includes areas Azerbaijan seized in last year’s 44-day war, including Shusha and Hadrut.
In response Azerbaijan rejects any autonomous status for the region’s ethnic Armenians inside Azerbaijan, meaning any Armenian sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh is completely off the table for Baku.
It says the status of the region’s ethnic Armenians is that they are now citizens of Azerbaijan. But 2,000 Russian peacekeepers are deployed in the territory that remains in effect administered by the self-proclaimed “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”.
Yerevan says it wants the United Nations’ cultural agency Unesco to send a mission to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, is requesting a Unesco expedition to sites of Armenian Christian heritage, saying they are in danger under Azerbaijan’s occupation following last year’s devastating defeat to the Muslim neighbour.
Mirzoyan said Armenia has documented numerous cases of Azerbaijani forces deliberately damaging churches and other Armenian monuments in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The Azerbaijani government continues to politicise and obstruct the visit of Unesco experts … to conceal its cultural crimes,” he said.
On November 9 last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russian forces were deployed to monitor the ceasefire line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the so-called Lachinsky corridor that connects Armenia to the mountainous region.
Under the ceasefire agreement, Russian peacekeepers are due to remain in the enclave until 2025, with an option to extend that Armenia and Azerbaijan could both veto. Azerbaijan might wish to block any extension to enable it to exert its control on its newly occupied territory.
A three-nation commission, including the deputy prime ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, is working on the implementation of the ceasefire deal and examining ways to reopen transport routes around the region. The talks resumed in mid-August after work was abandoned earlier this year amid rising tensions.
Azerbaijan’s military victory last year was emphatic. Picture credit: Wikimedia