"The document on unblocking roads is almost completely agreed" - Overchuk
Restoration of transport between Armenia-Azerbaijan
“The draft document has been formed and almost completely agreed at our level.” This statement was made by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk, talking about the unblocking of transport between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In an interview with TASS, he said that the trilateral working group has been working for almost 2.5 years. There is no clear schedule of meetings; the date of the next meeting is also not known. According to Overchuk, negotiations are slow due to a lack of trust.
The members of the working group are the vice-premiers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Mher Grigoryan and Shahin Mustafayev are simultaneously representatives of their countries in the commission on state border delimitation and border security. Grigoryan invited his Azerbaijani counterpart to meet in the near future and discuss “actual problems that cause tension on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.” So far, there has been no response from Baku to this proposal.
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Positions of Yerevan and Baku on the details of unblocking the routes
The last meeting of the working group took place in Russia on June 2. Both Yerevan and Moscow considered the meeting constructive. It was reported that “mutual understanding has been reached regarding the restoration of the railway along the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz route.”
However, Armenia and Azerbaijan make conflicting statements regarding road control. Official Yerevan claims that if communications are unblocked, the border service on the territory of Armenia will be under the control of the Armenian side. Baku, referring to a tripartite statement dated November 9, 2020, announces that Russian border guards should control the road.
According to Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanyan, the November 9 statement and the subsequent decree signed by the Russian president speak “more about the monitoring function entrusted to the Russian FSB, rather than about specific control.” He claims that the details are still in the process of being discussed.
“Unblocking transport will begin with restoration of the railway”
Overchuk, referring to the draft document discussed by the vice-premiers, said that the unblocking of transport in the region will begin with the restoration of the railway, which will run along the Yeraskh-Julfa-Meghri-Horadiz route. He also presented the approaches of the parties regarding the procedure for crossing the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, based on “respect for the sovereignty of the parties”:
“None of the parties doubts that certain sections of this road will be under the jurisdiction of the country on whose territory they will be located. Thus, in relation to this road, Azerbaijani legislation will be applied in Azerbaijan, and Armenian legislation in Armenia. It would seem that these are obvious things, but taking into account the relations that have developed between the two states and peoples, all this must be stipulated.
What the main problem is
According to Overchuk, the group has yet to work out the main issue: who will ensure the security of Armenians and Azerbaijanis using these routes. He announced that negotiators should answer this question in such a way as to be sure that “nothing bad will happen to these people on the territory of another country.”
“And of course, we are all influenced by what is happening now at the border. It would be much easier to find solutions if the shooting stopped,” he stressed.
According to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, no one intends “for the sake of the speed of signing the document to put in second place the safety of people and goods” that will move along the road.
“This is a very important point, which does not yet answer the question of when the unblocking will occur,” he stressed.
Overchuk also said that “any proposals and decisions are subject to a very thorough and verified analysis” via experts.
The aim of the group is to reach solutions that will make things work “as they should between countries entering, hopefully, a new peaceful phase of relations.”
“The best way to achieve peace is to build a common road”
Overchuk noted that it is difficult to find examples in the world when the opposing sides almost immediately after the cessation of hostilities sat down at the negotiating table and started talking about restoring transport:
“In our case, everyone understands that there is no alternative to peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and the best way to achieve peace is to open up the opportunity for people to interact peacefully, build a common road, along which people and goods will then go, normal life, trade will begin, and gradually the old resentment will fade into the background.”
Restoration of transport links Armenia-Azerbaijan