Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds his annual press conference via video link, Moscow, January 18

Deal on Karabakh’s Status Not Urgent For Russia

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MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — The status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved and it must be a subject of future Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday, January 18.

In the meantime, he stressed, the territory will be protected by Russian peacekeeping forces deployed there after a Moscow-brokered agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10.

“Precisely because the problem of the status is so thorny it was decided by the three leaders [of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia] to circumvent and leave it to the future,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. “The [Russian, U.S. and French] co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group must deal with this as well. They have resumed their contacts with the parties and are going to visit the region again.”

He suggested that the return to normality and confidence-building measures in the conflict zone will eventually facilitate an agreement on the main sticking point.

Speaking after his talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Karabakh’s status is among “many issues” that have yet to be settled by the conflicting sides. Yerevan maintains that Karabakh’s population must be able to exercise its right to self-determination in line peace proposals made by the Russian, U.S. and French mediators.

Lavrov stressed that Armenian leaders should avoid making “emotional” statements when visiting Karabakh. He chided them for making such statements before the war.

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In a related matter, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan on Friday reacted to the statement made by the representative of the Foreign Ministry of Russia who stated that the Russian side has always supported the implementation of the humanitarian contacts between the Armenian and Azerbaijani societies. Asked whether there are prerequisites for such programs, Naghdalyan said: “We highly commend Russia’s efforts aimed at establishing peace and stability in the region. The Armenian side has always supported humanitarian contacts between the societies of the region, which should be based on mutual respect and tolerance and be aimed at creating mutual trust. Certainly, relevant prerequisites should be established for such programs.”

She noted that the statements of the leadership of Azerbaijan demonstrate that Azerbaijan is not yet ready for that. Furthermore, creating obstacles for the repatriation of the Armenian prisoners of war, issuing a stamp glorifying the ethnic cleansing of Armenians, as well as the consistent threats being voiced by President Aliyev attest to the fact that Azerbaijan is challenging the trust-building efforts of international mediators.

“The provocative statements made by the President of Azerbaijan in Shushi, as well as the attempts to present the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Church, which had been targeted during the war, as a ‘war prize and symbol of victory’ are particularly deplorable,” Naghdalyan noted, adding: “These realities prove that the conflict is still far from being resolved, and the peace process is necessary to establish lasting peace in the region.”

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