Putin gives run-through of Karabakh issues at annual press conference
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a series of comments about the Karabakh conflict and issues in the region during an annual press conference held earlier today, most significantly highlighting that Karabakh ‘is the internationally-recognized territory of Azerbaijan.’
“[Even] Armenia itself did not recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added.
According to Putin, this was the position of Russia in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group on the settlement of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: “This is how our position was built in the Minsk Group, where Russia, the United States and France are co-chairs. For many years we have always proceeded from the premise that the seven areas around Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijan.”
On the status of Nagorno-Karabakh
Putin noted that now the status of Karabakh should remain unchanged, and the issue of its definition should be resolved in the future.
“The status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh should be set, but with the obligatory creation of the possibility of communication between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, for which it was supposed to create the so-called Lachin corridor – that is, a communication corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Russian president said.
Referring to Turkey’s position in the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh, Putin noted official Ankara’s support for Baku in the issue of returning the territories over which Azerbaijan lost control in the 1990s.
“Turkey’s position is based on, and it is publicly stated, that Turkey defended, as they believe, the just cause of Azerbaijan, namely the return of territories that were occupied during the fighting in the 1990s,” Putin said.
On the causes of the conflict
Putin does not believe that the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has flared up again this year due to the intervention of some external forces.
“The situation got out of control, this tension lasted for many years,” he said. “I don’t think it happened due to some kind of outside interference. Friction, skirmishes and minor skirmishes arose many times. As a result, it turned into a conflict.”
According to Putin, the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh is “much more complicated than just simple normative postulates, including international legal ones.”
“The roots lie in an ethnic conflict, which began in Sumgait, and then spread to Nagorno-Karabakh. Here, each side has its own truth. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh once took up arms to protect their lives and dignity,” he added.
Incidents since the signing of the trilateral agreement
Putin stated that the violation of the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, recorded since the entry into force of the joint statement signed on November 10 on the complete cessation of hostilities in the region, was isolated. Putin hopes that there will be no more such cases.
“Those outbreaks of ceasefire violations – it happened only once. I hope that the isolated case will remain an isolated one, [that] all the contracting parties will still be able to sit down at the negotiating table, with our [whether] mediation, with the mediation of the Minsk Group [OSCE] – this is not important, the main thing is that the process begins and completed positively,” he said at an annual press conference.
“We have agreed within the framework of the trilateral statement that the hostilities will stop, and (here is a very important thing) we have agreed that the parties will stop in the positions where they were caught by the signing of our trilateral statement. This is where everyone should stop.”
Infrastructure in the region
There are many technical issues related to infrastructure in the region, Putin noted, but they ‘must be dealt with in a calm atmosphere during the negotiation process.’ And the trilateral agreement gives a foundation to do this, since it says that after the ceasefire, the next stage should be a complete normalisation of the situation in the region with the opening up of economic and infrastructural potential, including road and rail.
“This also applies to Nakhichevan and communications between the south and north of Armenia,” Putin said.
Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh
Putin did not rule out the possibility of increasing the number of Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh, but stressed that this requires the consent of both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“As for increasing the number of our peacekeepers,” he said, “this is possible, but only by agreement with all parties, including the Azerbaijani side. Because we initially discussed the number of our peacekeepers – this number has been agreed.”