Yerevan, Baku, Moscow postpone talks on reopening of regional corridors
The Yerevan-Baku-Moscow working group chaired by the vice-prime ministers of the three countries has suspended its work. It was created on January 11, 2021, in Moscow to ensure the fulfillment of the clauses of the Karabakh ceasefire agreement signed by the heads of the three states. The main aim of the group is to facilitate the unblocking of economic and transport communications in the region. However, the group’s activity has been postponed, the acting Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia Mher Grigoryan reported earlier.
Mher Grigoryan stated that the communication with Azerbaijan was interrupted after six Armenian soldiers were captured on the territory of their own country.
The incident took place on the night of May 27 when six Armenian soldiers were captured on the border with Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan that the measures were taken after the Armenian soldiers attempted “reconnaissance and sabotage” in the direction of the settlement of Yukhari Ayrim of the Kelbajar region.
The Armenian Defense Ministry claims that the servicemen were captured “while carrying out engineering work on the border zone of Gegharkunik region”.
Mher Grigoryan stated that given the current situation on the border, Yerevan considers it impossible to cooperate constructively in the format of a trilateral working group. Since May 12, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces have advanced their positions several kilometers deep into the sovereign territory of Armenia and refuse to retreat, despite the demands of the Armenian side.
Grigoryan stressed that Armenia is waiting for the reaction of international partners to the proposals for the settlement of the conflict on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which was recently made by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
On May 27, the acting prime minister made an official proposal to Azerbaijan to de-escalate the situation at the border. He proposed to mutually withdraw the troops from the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and deploy international observers there, referring specifically to Russia or two other countries of the OSCE Minsk Group – the United States and France.
After that, the head of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Ara Ayvazyan resigned. Experts assessed this move as a categorical disagreement with Pashinyan’s proposal. Ayvazyan himself explained on May 31 that he dis so to eradicate any doubts that the ministry could approve any steps that contradict the national and state interests of the country.
Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan commented on this statement of the former foreign minister stating that “national interests are a priority for all” and that he does not see “a reason for such statements to be made”.
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Why was the working group suspended?
“Now the work [of the Yerevan-Baku-Moscow working group] does not continue, because I stated that it will be effective only if the background and the general situation are at least stable. In this situation, taking into account, among other things, the situation on the border, I do not consider constructive work in this format possible”, Mher Grigoryan said.
At the same time, he said that even before the capture of the Armenian soldiers, the group conducted constructive activities. Now the acting Deputy Prime Minister hopes that “the common sense demonstrated by all members of the working group will prevail and it will be possible to unblock and create opportunities for rail and road traffic between Azerbaijan and Armenia and, accordingly, between Russia and Armenia via the territory of Azerbaijan”.
About “secret documents”
Mher Grigoryan assured that Armenia and Azerbaijan did not secretly agree on the possible surrender of enclaves by Armenia to Azerbaijan, and denied the existence of the so-called “secret documents”:
“I just ask you to forget this. I don’t understand why such information is being disseminated”.
This statement is a response to yet another scandal that erupted after Mikael Minasyan, the former ambassador to the Vatican and son-in-law of the ex-President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, published a document that was supposedly being prepared for signing.
He stated that the acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan agreed to conduct demarcation and territorial concessions in return for the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the territory of Armenia. However, Minasyan did not specify where he obtained the document from.
Pashinyan then commented on the allegations in parliament and argued that the documents only marked the beginning of the process of demarcation of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, the resignation of the foreign minister and the reasons that Ara Ayvazyan cited when commenting on his departure, have, once again aggravated the situation in the country and returned the issue back on Armenia’s agenda.
Will the transport corridor be opened?
The Deputy Prime Minister also commented on the statements of Azerbaijan in regards to the corridor that should be running through the territory of Armenia, in particular, the road connecting Azerbaijan with its exclave Nakhichevan. Mher Grigoryan denied any of such discussions with Azerbaijan had occurred:
“I want to assure again that Armenia did not discuss the issues of the corridor and will not discuss such an issue. If by saying “corridor” some mean transport routes, then this is a different question, but if they mean anything related to [Armenia’s] sovereignty, then no such discussion can be held.
We can only discus the unblocking of the routes in the context of using our sovereign infrastructures: they will either be used or there will be no unblocking at all. Moreover, there will be no military presence along the road”.
Mher Grigoryan stated that during the discussions of the working group, the agreement of January 11 is being used:
“I think this is just a question of a term that not everyone is using correctly, since both the mandate of the working group and the powers and the logic of the experts assume the framework of the document of January 11th”.