Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Tbilisi: comments from Baku and Yerevan
Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Tbilisi
Yerevan and Baku continue to discuss the meeting of Foreign Ministers Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov, which took place in Tbilisi. Georgian Foreign Minister Ilya Darchiashvili said that the Georgian side is ready to host meetings between representatives of Azerbaijan and Armenia and help in resolving issues. At the end of the meeting, he also stated that the foreign ministers did not achieve concrete results at the first bilateral talks. In his opinion, they cannot be achieved in one round.
What was reported about the Tbilisi talks between Bayramov and Mirzoyan in Armenia and Azerbaijan, how it is assessed by analysts in Baku and Yerevan.
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Information from Yerevan
Prior to the talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, the Armenian Foreign Minister met with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tbilisi as part of his working visit. The official website of the Armenian Foreign Ministry reported that the parties talked about further intensification of political dialogue and mutual visits. Ararat Mirzoyan stressed that further development of relations with Georgia is of strategic importance for Armenia.
“During the meeting, the interlocutors discussed a number of issues on regional security and stability. Ararat Mirzoyan expressed gratitude to the Georgian side for hosting the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and readiness to contribute to peace and stability in the region. An exchange of views on the settlement of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
Armenian media also reported the words of Georgian Foreign Minister Ilya Darchiashvili, who spoke about Georgia’s readiness to receive representatives from Yerevan and Baku and help resolve issues. He stated that Tbilisi helped start the dialogue:
“We were able to support our partners and friends. Our goal is for our neighboring countries to achieve concrete results in the course of these negotiations, so that we can all strengthen peace and security in the region through joint coordination and very close communication.”
However, at the end of the meeting, Ilya Darchiashvili stated that during these negotiations, his colleagues did not achieve concrete results. In his opinion, it was impossible to achieve them in one round.
After the meeting in Tbilisi, the Armenian Foreign Ministry reported that during the meeting, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov
- touched upon issues related to the settlement of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,
- discussed, in this regard, progress in fulfilling previous commitments,
- exchanged views on possible next steps.
“Minister Mirzoyan reaffirmed the position of the Armenian side that on the path to achieving a stable and lasting peace in the region, it is important to have a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and in this context stressed the importance of using the institution and experience of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing in accordance with its international mandate. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia noted the importance of solving humanitarian problems, including the release and return of Armenian prisoners of war, clarifying the fate of the missing. Readiness of the parties to continue discussions was recorded,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called the Tbilisi meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan a positive step. In his microblog on Twitter, he wrote that a direct dialogue would help resolve the differences between the two countries.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry also reports that on July 17, at the initiative of the American side, a telephone conversation took place between Ararat Mirzoyan and US Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried. The Minister presented to his interlocutor the latest developments in the process of regulation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and gave details of the meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart in Tbilisi.
“Ararat Mirzoyan noted that the Armenian side continues to emphasize the importance of the role of the OSCE Minsk Group and the co-chairing countries in the process of the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the message on the website of the Armenian Foreign Ministry says.
Commentary from Yerevan
According to political scientist Tigran Grigoryan, it is obvious that at this stage there is a serious crisis in the negotiation process. He sees the Mirzoyan-Bayramov meeting as “a step taken towards overcoming this crisis.”
He believes that the meeting was organized on the initiative of the European Union. The political scientist does not consider it a coincidence that EU Special Representative Toivo Klaar visited the region a few days before the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“Judging by the reports, there are no grounds for optimism,” Tigran Grigoryan stressed, commenting on the meeting in Tbilisi at the request of JAMnews.
The political scientist believes that the rhetoric of Azerbaijan has become more aggressive, and recalls that the other day Aliyev spoke about the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh and threatened Armenia again.
According to the analyst, the main topics in the agenda of the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are:
• settlement of the Karabakh conflict
• delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border
• the process of unblocking the region
• humanitarian issues – in particular, the return of Armenian prisoners of war from Azerbaijan
The political scientist believes that these issues were on the negotiating table of Mirzoyan-Bayramov.
“The Armenian side raised the issue of the return of the prisoners, the Azerbaijani side, as a counterbalance, once again mentioned the problem of Azerbaijanis who went missing in the first Karabakh war,” says Tigran Grigoryan.
According to the political scientist, the invasion of the Azerbaijani armed forces into the sovereign territory of Armenia in May last year was also discussed at the Mirzoyan-Bayramov meeting.
“This issue is one of the problems that hinders progress in the process of delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,” the analyst said.
He recalls that before the first meeting in Brussels, Armenia stated that prior to the establishment of a commission on border delimitation, appropriate mechanisms should be introduced at the border, which will create a favorable atmosphere for starting the process. The Azerbaijani side considered this requirement a preliminary condition and did not accept it.
According to Grigoryan, during the meeting held in December 2021 in Brussels, the Armenian side made a concession, agreeing to establish a delimitation commission without introducing security mechanisms.
“It is clear that this issue is being discussed, but there is no progress. Azerbaijan is not going, for example, to withdraw troops from any point and is not ready to discuss the issue of security within the framework of this commission,” the political scientist stressed.
When asked whether Georgia can become an active mediator in the normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, given the fact that the first Mirzoyan-Bayramov meeting took place in Tbilisi, the political scientist replied:
“Georgia provided a venue for the meeting, the country’s authorities have nothing to do with its organization. I will not make far-reaching conclusions. It is possible that such meetings will be held in Georgia, but I would not consider Georgia as a serious mediator in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.”
Information from Baku
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan issued a statement following the bilateral meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Tbilisi on July 16, 2022.
“The ministers touched upon issues related to the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In this regard, the fulfillment of the obligations assumed by both sides was discussed, views were exchanged on possible further steps,” the Foreign Ministry noted.
“Minister Jeyhun Bayramov noted that all efforts should be aimed at advancing interstate relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the basis of post-conflict realities that emerged after the resolution of the armed conflict between the two states. In this context, the importance of implementing all the conditions of the tripartite statement was noted, signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, in particular the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan.
When touching upon humanitarian issues, Minister Jeyhun Bayramov drew attention to the need to clarify the fate of about 4,000 missing Azerbaijanis.
The ministers stressed their determination to continue the direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Both ministers thanked the Georgian side for organizing the meeting in Georgia,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
Comment from Baku
According to political observer Agshin Kerimov, the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan in Tbilisi took place on the initiative of the West.
“Although this dialogue between the two ministers is regarded in the context of bilateral efforts, the statements of Western political circles made after this meeting, show that the West is the secret initiator of bilateral discussions between Bayramov and Mirzoyan,” he said.
The expert said that the Tbilisi meeting would have a strong impact on the development of the dialogue in a bilateral format. It has already set a precedent for third party mediation.
“As for the topics that the ministers discussed, I think they should be viewed through the prism of Ilham Aliyev’s speech on the eve of the meeting in Tbilisi. Azerbaijan’s position was clearly presented there.
The President of Azerbaijan focuses mainly on the fulfillment of the conditions of the items 4 and 9 of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020 – on the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from Karabakh and the opening of the Zangezur corridor. Apparently, these two directions can be considered the main points in the discussions between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijan speaks from a position of strength in the negotiations, and official Yerevan is trying to somehow present all this to its society as a more or less digestible version. It takes time, and during this period the Armenian government is trying to pull itself together.
Despite all these ups and downs, Azerbaijan’s ability to control the actions of Armenia, its incomparable military superiority, and its attractiveness to international actors puts Armenia in a not very advantageous position.
Azerbaijan is currently receiving support from both Russia and the West. Turkey, as a center of power, is an ally of Baku. But unlike Turkey, Russia and the West leave room for maneuvering a dose of support towards Armenia.
My personal prediction for the future of the negotiations is that Azerbaijan will be able to maintain its advantage and continue to put pressure on Armenia through reminders of the possibility of resolving issues by force.
At the moment, Baku is developing military plans on open issues and turning it into a lever in the course of the negotiation process.
In a sense, Azerbaijan is giving Armenia time to ensure the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories where Russian peacekeepers are stationed. But at times, Baku’s patience becomes short, and the military scenario for resolving this issue turns into a subject of negotiations.
Armenia does not have the strength for another military confrontation and is well aware that Azerbaijan is developing its views on the Karabakh economic zone in parallel with its views on the East Zangezur one. In this regard, we should not forget about the likelihood of directing the arrows of possible military operations directly to the border zones.
I think that in Bayramov’s dialogue with Mirzoyan, along with humanitarian issues and the problem of border delimitation, the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from Karabakh, Baku also emphasized the force factor.
With regard to disputes over humanitarian issues, Armenia bears a great responsibility here. Because both in the years of the first Karabakh war and in the days of the second Karabakh war, Armenia grossly violated the humanitarian rules for conducting hostilities, but so far refuses to report on their results.
Azerbaijan, in turn, recalls all this and seeks to transfer this process to the plane of international judicial instances,” Karimov said in his comment.
Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Tbilisi