Tensions rise amid latest exchange of statements between Foreign Ministries of Armenia and Azerbaijan
Armenian and Azerbaijani FMs exchange statements
The Armenian Foreign Ministry rejected the statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov regarding the proposals of the Armenian side on the demarcation of the borders. The Azerbaijani minister accused the Armenian authorities of violating the activities of the tripartite working group. According to him, the Armenian side has put forward preliminary conditions for the start of the work of the commission on delimitation and demarcation.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry stated that there were no preconditions in the proposals of the Armenian side.
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Reports from Yerevan
Two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan stated that a package of measures aimed at de-escalating the situation and increasing the level of security and stability on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border was transferred to Azerbaijan through the Russian side.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, after receiving the proposals, said that “Yerevan’s preconditions regarding the start of demarcation” are unacceptable for Baku. Armenia responded that there were no preconditions. However, the “dialogue” between the two parties continued.
In an interview with APA Azeri news agency, Jeyhun Bayramov stated that Armenia “has no moral, legal or political right to put forward any conditions for the demarcation process”.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry again responded to the statements of Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. On February 4, the press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Vahan Hunanyan, answering the questions of the Armenpress agency, stated that “calling Armenia’s proposals as a “condition”, “precondition”, and then giving them moral, political, legal assessments has nothing in common with a process that the parties have committed to follow up as a result of the meeting of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in Sochi“.
According to Hunanyan, on November 26, 2021, the leaders of the three countries signed a statement that clearly outlines the agreement to take steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and begin the process of creating a bilateral delimitation and demarcation commission:
“It follows from the statement signed by the leaders of the three countries that the activities of the delimitation and demarcation commission should be preceded by reaching agreements on steps to increase the level of security on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and their implementation. This is also logical because it is difficult to imagine demarcation work on the border, where ceasefire violations occur every day. The Republic of Armenia, which is really interested in the full implementation of the agreements, has formulated its ideas for their implementation”.
According to the representative of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the Azerbaijani side did not give any substantive answer, but rejected the proposals, “without offering options for implementing the agreements of the leaders of the three countries”.
In addition, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister also accused Armenia of disrupting the activities of the trilateral working group. In this regard, Vahan Hunanyan said:
“If you mean the trilateral working group on unblocking regional communications, by a curious coincidence, on the same morning [when Bayramov’s statement was made], Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a government meeting that Armenia is in the process of taking practical steps to restore the Yeraskh-Julfa railway — Ordubad-Meghri-Horadiz, and co-chair of the working group of Armenia, Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan held a substantive discussion in Yerevan on February 2 on this topic with his Russian counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk and General Director of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov.
Prime Minister Pashinyan, assessing the situation, said that the first results of the work of the trilateral working group seem very close. In this context, the statements of the head of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry are strange, at the very least, and we hope that this does not mean Azerbaijan’s rejection of the agreements reached in Brussels on the resumption of the work of the railway”.
According to the press secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Armenia reaffirms its commitment to the agreements reached. Vahan Hunanyan also stressed that Armenia made proposals to the Azerbaijani side on the opening of highways:
“To date, there has been no response from the Azerbaijani side to these proposals. Armenia is ready to start implementing these proposals as soon as possible”.
Commentary from Yerevan
Political observer Hakob Badalyan commented on the situation in an interview with JAMnews:
“These statements eloquently confirm what we are seeing throughout the post-war period. This is a fairly tough positional struggle at the level of political processes. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are trying not to succumb to each other’s conditions, perceived preconditions, or political approaches. And this is another manifestation of this confrontation.
If we talk specifically about the attitude towards the demarcation process, then here, too, Baku’s interest in dragging out this process is obvious.
As the victorious side of the 2020 war, Azerbaijan is trying to keep this post-war period of uncertain or unresolved political mechanisms as long as possible in order to get the most dividends from its status. At the same time, the trump card in the hands of Azerbaijan is played in the form of Armenian prisoners of war remaining there.
In this regard, Baku is not interested in entering the framework of these political mechanisms and is trying to drag out the process of demarcation and delimitation as much as possible. It is obvious that Baku is also trying to delay the unblocking of transport routes.
Azerbaijan is trying to dictate such political conditions so that the process begins with its positional advantage, by trying to raise the price of developing these political mechanisms, using the fact that it is the winning side in the war, as well as the factor of prisoners of war until it cannot avoid making concessions and not returning them.
Perhaps Azerbaijan has now received this opportunity, thanks to the events taking place around Ukraine. All major players and actors have focused their attention on this issue. Baku, in fact, received a certain backlash to delay the processes.
There were intensive meetings in November-December last year [meaning the meetings of the leaders of the two countries], but after that, it seems that the process, which is entering a rather intensive phase, has slowed down significantly. I think this is a consequence of the fact that the attention, including that of the mediators of the negotiations, has focused on Ukraine and Azerbaijan is trying to use this situation to drag it out”.
Reports from Baku
The Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov responded to the proposals received from Armenia:
“Two weeks ago, Armenia, through the mediation of Russia, submitted new proposals to Azerbaijan to start the delimitation process”, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister said at a briefing following a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjártó.
Jeyhun Bayramov, however, did not disclose the details of these proposals.
“There are preconditions for starting the process. The Azerbaijani side once again brought its position to the attention of the opposite side. Our proposal is that there should be no preconditions”, he said.
Commentary from Baku
JAMnews asked political scientist Ramiz Mammadov to comment on the situation before the talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the demarcation of the state border.
“If we talk about proposals to demarcate the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, several factors must be taken into account. They exist, and there is no escape from them at present.
Firstly, the border between countries is not just a wall, on both sides of which there are border guards of two neighboring states. This is a whole strip with a neutral zone between the border guards which is why the settlements and farms through which the border will pass come to the fore.
In the days of the USSR, this line was, as it were, virtual, and houses, collective farms, and state farms were located right on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. No one thought that they live, let’s say, in Azerbaijan, but are working on the territory of Armenia. But times have changed.
Yes, Azerbaijan has no such problem, but only because there were no Azerbaijanis in those areas over the past 30 years. They were expelled after the occupation of these territories by the Armenian military forces. But the Armenians live and work there. Literally on the border. And the latest news of the cattle running across the border, and everything else in this spirit only confirms this.
If there is demarcation, then the Armenian side will have to resolve the issue with these settlements and farms that fall directly on the border or on the neutral zone between the border guards of the two countries.
Yes, we have seen many times how in the European Union how the border between two countries passes through some kind of a bar or a pedestrian crossing. But alas, our reality is different.
The second question, no less urgent, is how to deal with the Lachin corridor.
Who will stand at the entrance to the Lachin corridor on the territory of Azerbaijan? If it is the Azerbaijani border guards, then I don’t see any problems, this is how it should be according to international law.
But according to a tripartite statement dated November 10, 2020, the corridor is under the control of Russian peacekeepers, so, how should it be arranged, in that case? After all, the country must protect its border around the entire perimeter.
Let’s assume this option: someone passes into the Lachin corridor from Armenia, and ends up in the corridor itself, from where it is easier than ever to get to the territory of Azerbaijan, where there are no more Russian peacekeepers.
What happens? Should Azerbaijani border guards guard the entire perimeter of the Lachin corridor and that part of Karabakh where the peacekeepers are located? This is impossible because Azerbaijan considers the whole of Karabakh to be its territory and borders cannot exist there. Therefore, there can be no border guards there.
These moments will be the most crucial in the course of negotiations between the parties on the demarcation of borders. This is my opinion”, the political scientist said.