Why are PM Pashinyan and President Aliyev meeting in Sochi ahead of Brussels?
The holding of the trilateral Putin–Pashinyan–Aliyev meeting in Sochi has been confirmed. The meeting will take place on November 26, that is, ahead of the meeting of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Brussels brokered by the head of the European Council Charles Michel. The meeting in Europe is scheduled for December 15th.
In this regard, Armenia and Azerbaijan began to discuss the reason for the fact that the meeting mediated by Russia will take place prior to the talks in Europe.
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Pashinyan: “The meeting was discussed earlier”
The Armenian prime minister said that the meeting mediated by Russia has long been agreed upon, its terms were simply specified. Nikol Pashinyan confirmed rumors that they discussed the possibility of meeting with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan on November 9, 2021, on the day of the anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement in Karabakh.
Armenian media outlets have been reporting on this since October. Moreover, a specific agenda of the talks was announced – the signing of a peace agreement and a document on the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani borders.
In the evening of November 23, while answering questions from journalists and representatives of public organizations on his Facebook page, Nikol Pashinyan said that he considered it undesirable to hold negotiations on that day, since he is associated with the defeat of the Armenian side in the Karabakh war. Another date was proposed – November 15, which did not suit all participants. As a result, the parties came up with November 26 date for the meeting, and it was decided to hold the meeting in Sochi and change its format – it will not take place online, as planned earlier, but in real life instead.
After the second Karabakh war, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia will meet for the second time, their previous meeting took place in Moscow in January 2021.
The Prime Minister of Armenia did not deny the possibility of signing a document on the demarcation and delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border at the meeting. But Pashinyan assured: the document will not contain specific decisions on where the border will run, it will say that a commission is being formed and work on demarcation and delimitation is starting – a long and complex process. He especially emphasized that the recognition of the Armenian-Azerbaijani borders does not mean rejection of the Karabakh issue.
Pashinyan recalled that back in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan mutually recognized each other’s territorial integrity according to the CIS documents, but this did not mean that the Karabakh issue was removed:
“Is the Artsakh issue a territorial one? In our understanding, no. This is a matter of law”.
As for the talks in Brussels, the head of the European Council Charles Michel suggested holding it during his spring visit to the region.
“He said that the Eastern Partnership summit will be held on December 15 and offered to organize a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan. I accepted this offer”, Pashinyan said.
In his opinion, negotiations between the authorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan should be held even more often in order to resolve the current situation and to avoid crises. According to the Armenian Prime Minister, at the talks in Europe, humanitarian issues will be discussed, in particular, the return of prisoners from Baku.
Pashinyan said that Armenia is ready and awaits negotiations at the highest level and within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, which will be organized by its co-chairs representing the United States, France and Russia. Peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in this format before the second Karabakh war, and the Armenian side is now inclined to continue this process.
Moreover, the prime minister believes that amid the acute situation in the region, one should not associate excessive expectations with any negotiations or fall into “apocalyptic sentiments”. He himself is set for serious discussions aimed at de-escalating the tensions.
Commentary from Yerevan
Political observer Hakob Badalyan, commenting on the upcoming two meetings and the possibility of signing a new trilateral statement during the Putin-Pashinyan-Aliyev meeting in Sochi, writes:
“I wonder what will be the reaction of those Armenian circles, who regarded the meeting in Brussels as an act of renouncing Russia and accepting Europe. Apparently, now we will talk about “slavery”. Unfortunately, in the Armenian political “discourse” this has become the natural logic of assessing realities. The reality, of course, is much more complicated and multi-layered, and it is irrational to view Brussels as a process opposing Moscow”.
In his opinion, the processes will go in different directions so as not to interfere with each other. At the same time, the Russian side “is trying to show the viability of the trilateral format” through its mediation and capitalize this success in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship:
“If my observations correspond to reality, then this situation, if not the best for Armenia, then at least is relatively positive, it would be more correct to say, it provides comparatively better opportunities for work – from what could be in post-war period”.
Commentary from Baku
“The documents are ready for signing”
Member of the Azerbaijani parliament Rasim Musabekov said the following
“The meeting on November 9, on that very day, was difficult for the Armenians. Until that date, I often said that the Armenian side would probably refuse to negotiate on that day, but nowt they do not have a choice.
Perhaps the latest events at the border played some role in this. But reactions from abroad also play a certain role: both Russia and the West insist that we must first come to an agreement about the border and open the transport infrastructure.
These two issues are already being worked out with the participation of Russia. Therefore, the signing of some documents on these fundamental issues was on the agenda, this is not a surprise. I think that these documents are ready for signing, otherwise the Russian side would not have come forward so persistently with the announcements.
As for the meeting in Brussels on December 15, Pashinyan would not have been Pashinyan if he had not been reinsured. He understands very well that the documents signed in Sochi will be approved by the West, and after that no one in the domestic political arena will be able to accuse him of any betrayal of the country’s interests”.
“All major issues will be resolved with the participation of Russia”
Elkhan Shahinoglu, Head of the Atlas Analytical Center:
“Remember the end of October. RIA Novosti, influential media outlet in Russia and directly connected to the Kremlin, announced a meeting in Sochi in early November. What happened next? Armenia actually refused to participate in the meeting, stating that such negotiations were not envisaged.
I admit that this painfully affected the interests of Russia. Perhaps Pashinyan himself was ready for this meeting, but inside the country the pressure on him was enormous. And, probably, through his own channels, the Prime Minister of Armenia made it clear that he was not ready yet.
But immediately after the incident at the border, Yerevan agreed to a meeting mediated by Europe. Russia thought: “Well, all the dirty work had to be done by me, but Armenia does not want to go to Moscow, and agrees to a meeting in Brussels”. Therefore, it was decided to first meet in Sochi. All major issues will be resolved there, with the participation of Russia. Not much can be expected from the Brussels meeting.
The main question here is that Moscow took part in the signing of the documents on November 10, 2020 and January 11, 2021. For better or worse, they played a big role in the development of events in the region. With this mission, Russia can, to some extent, cooperate with Turkey, since this country is also in the region, but separate from Europe or the United States”.
“We need peace, but not at any cost”
Member of the Azerbaijani parliament, one of the leaders of the opposition Republican Alternative party Erkin Gadirli said the following:
“I don’t think the documents will be signed in Sochi. This requires agreement on basic principles. Delimitation and demarcation of borders is the next question. First, the parties must recognize each other’s territorial integrity.
Pashinyan must declare that Karabakh is Azerbaijan. It does not matter how it is formulated, but in some way he must convey this idea. In the document, most likely, this will be another statement, it should be specifically spelled out.
For Armenia, this is the most painful issue, and no politician wants to take on such a responsibility.
At a meeting with Armenian politicians in Vienna last month, where I was part of a delegation from Azerbaijan, the Armenians made it clear that they did not recognize any agreements signed by Pashinyan. Therefore, we are in no rush to sign a peace treaty, delimitation and demarcation of borders yet. First, we need to agree on the fundamental principles and mutual recognition of territorial integrity.
Of course, peace is needed, but not at any cost”.