"The negotiation process should be an internal affair of Khankendi and Baku." View from Baku
“Despite Michel’s appreciation of the leaders’ commitment to the peace process and his call for further bold steps, little progress has been made since the Prague meeting last October.” This is how head of Turan news agency, Mehman Aliyev, assessed the latest Brussels meeting between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, mediated by the President of the European Council.
Commenting on the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry, he noted that “neither Moscow, nor Brussels, nor any other intermediary capitals are no longer responsible for the situation in the region, and the negotiation process should first of all be an internal affair of Khankendi and Baku”
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Charles Michel’s statement
The meeting between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan, mediated by the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, took place in Brussels on July 15. At the end of the meeting, Michel made a statement following the talks.
“Our meeting was the latest in a series of intensive and productive high-level meetings involving the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, deputy prime ministers and foreign ministers, which have been held since early May in Brussels, Chisinau, Washington, Moscow and on the bilateral border.
We are going through one of the most complete and energetic stages of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Michel said after the meeting.
He “commended” the leaders for their “strong commitment to the peace process” and called on them to “take further bold steps to ensure decisive and irreversible progress towards normalization.”
“We agreed that our teams will remain in close contact to ensure concrete development of what was discussed today.
Real progress depends on the next steps to be taken in the near future. First of all, violence and harsh rhetoric must be stopped in order to create the proper environment for peace negotiations and normalization.
I also reaffirmed my intention to invite the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to another meeting in Brussels after the summer, as well as to another five-party meeting with the participation also of the leaders of France and Germany in Granada, within the framework of the next summit of the European Political Community (to be held in October),” he concluded.
Despite the optimism in Michel’s speech, Azerbaijani expert Mehman Aliyev believes that since the Prague meeting in October last year, nothing has been achieved in the Armenian-Azerbaijani talks.
“In Prague, Pashinyan agreed to recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, including the Armenian-populated territory of Karabakh (ANTK), on the basis of the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration, which recognized the existing borders.
However, no significant progress was made in Brussels on any of the six agenda items, and some parameters even worsened. These include increased border restrictions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, especially in the Lachin corridor, continued problems with prisoners of war, lack of progress in delimiting the border and concluding a peace treaty, as well as increasing military incidents in Karabakh.”
Aliyev believes that the facts point to a stalemate in the negotiation process, “when both sides are reluctant to promote peace based on their respective interests.”
“Azerbaijan refuses to grant a separate status to the part of Karabakh where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily stationed, while Armenia hopes to separate this part from Azerbaijan. It seems that the EU, as demonstrated in Michel’s statement, is seeking to keep the part of Karabakh with an Armenian population as a potential time bomb by imposing the former status of the NKAR created by Stalin in 1923. This is evident from the mention of the term “NKAO” in Michel’s statement.
On the contrary, the statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published on the same day as the meeting in Brussels, does not mention NKAR. Instead, it highlights the importance of guaranteeing the rights and security of Armenians in Karabakh, based on the November 9, 2020 statement. Moscow highlights Armenia’s public recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan, which it claims changed the terms under which the statement was signed, as well as the status of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.
The Russian Foreign Ministry states that the responsibility for the fate of the Armenian population in Karabakh should no longer be shifted to third parties. This suggests that neither Moscow, nor Brussels, nor any other intermediary capitals are anymore responsible for the situation in the region, and the negotiation process should first of all be an internal affair of Khankendi and Baku,” the expert says.
He also notes that in the light of these events, Russia expresses its intention to actively contribute to international efforts to restore normality in Nagorno-Karabakh:
“The Russian government proposes to hold a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow in the near future to discuss the implementation of agreements at a high level, including negotiations on a peace treaty. It proposes to convene a Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Moscow to sign the aforementioned document.”
According to Aliyev, this indicates that the Kremlin does not want to wait for the results of two European meetings scheduled for autumn.
“However, given the global confrontation with the West, it is unclear whether Moscow will be able to achieve the signing of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia may continue to drag out the process, relying on France’s recent assurances of solidarity with Armenians and the European Council President’s use of the term “NKAR”. Europe’s recent actions provide some justification for Armenia’s cautious approach,” Aliyev concluded.
Russian Foreign Ministry statement
On the same day, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding Nagorno-Karabakh.
The statement notes that Armenia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of the territory of Azerbaijan during the summits under the auspices of the European Union in October 2022 and May 2023.
“While the Russian government respected the sovereign decision of Armenia, it emphasized that this recognition fundamentally changed the conditions under which the Statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020 was signed, as well as the status of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in the region.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the responsibility for the fate of the Armenian population in Karabakh should not be shifted to third parties. Instead, he called for immediate preparations for the signing of a peace treaty between Baku and Yerevan on the basis of previously agreed terms. The statement emphasized the importance of providing reliable and clear guarantees of the rights and security of Armenians in Karabakh as an integral part of the agreement. It also noted the need for strict implementation of comprehensive trilateral agreements between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, which include the unblocking of transport routes and the start of the process of delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
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In light of this, Russia expressed its intention to contribute to international efforts aimed at restoring the normal situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian government has offered to organize a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow in the near future to discuss the implementation of agreements at a high level, including negotiations on a peace treaty. The statement suggested convening a Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian summit in Moscow to sign the aforementioned document.
The Russian side expressed concern about the negative trajectory of the development of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. It highlighted the deepening humanitarian crisis in the region, with the local population facing severe shortages of food, medicine, basic necessities and basic services such as electricity and gas.
The leadership of Azerbaijan was urged to take immediate steps to unblock the Lachin corridor, which facilitates the unhindered movement of people, vehicles and goods in both directions. In addition, the restoration of energy supply to the region was emphasized as an important measure.
Reply statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan expressed “perplexity” and “regret” about this statement by the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation.
“This statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry does not comply with the Declaration on Allied Cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation, as well as the speeches of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin on supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, including the Karabakh region,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a comment.
The document points out the “unacceptability” of the attempts of the Russian Foreign Ministry to “comment on and condition the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the context of the recognition of Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan by the Prime Minister of Armenia, which for almost 30 years kept Azerbaijani territories under occupation” .
As further highlighted in the document, Baku also demonstrates commitment to the tripartite documents signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia.
The statement notes that in order to prevent the illegal activities of illegal Armenian armed groups in the country and ensure the transparency of transportation, the Azerbaijani side established the Lachin border checkpoint, which was established in accordance with the legislation of Azerbaijan and international standards.
“Over the past few months, hundreds of Armenian residents have been allowed to pass through this checkpoint in an organized and transparent manner. Despite this, Armenia, which did not abandon military provocations against Azerbaijan, fired at this point on June 15, and in July made attempts to smuggle it through the cars of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Despite this, the Azerbaijani side, through the ICRC, again created conditions for the passage of Armenian residents, and also announced the possibility of meeting the needs of Armenian residents using the Agdam-Khankendi route. In this context, the complete groundlessness of attempts to politicize the creation of the Lachin border checkpoint, which is the sovereign right of Azerbaijan, and to voice the thesis about the allegedly existing difficult humanitarian situation in the region, is obvious,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a comment.