From left, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a prior trilateral meeting in Moscow, January 11, 2020

Meetings to Take Place between Aliyev, Pashinyan This Week and in December

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YEREVAN/MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — A trilateral meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will take place in Sochi on November 26, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, November 23.

“It is planned to discuss the implementation of the agreements reached on November 9 [2020] and January 11 [2021] as well as to outline further steps to strengthen stability and establish a peaceful life in the region,” the statement said, adding that the talks will be held upon the initiative of the Russian president.

The Kremlin also said that the Russian president will hold bilateral meetings with Pashinyan and Aliyev.

In early November Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that a trilateral meeting of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia was being prepared in Moscow. Russian state television Rossia 1 even reported then that the meeting could take place on the first anniversary of the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire on November 9. Shortly after that announcement Armenia’s prime minister denied that there was any agreement about such a meeting. No meeting eventually took place.

Meanwhile, the European Union said on Friday that during phone talks with Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, earlier last week Pashinyan and Aliyev agreed to meet on the sidelines of the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on December 15.

“During the phone calls, the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders have also agreed to establish a direct communication line, at the level of respective Ministers of Defense, to serve as an incident prevention mechanism,” the EU said.

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Both Yerevan and Baku have confirmed the upcoming meeting in Brussels.

Brussels Meeting

New details of an announced meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in Brussels next month have been revealed to RFE/RL. A senior European Union official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan had agreed to meet on December 15.

“The goal is to bring Pashinyan and Aliyev to the same table for confidence-building measures,” said the EU official.

On November 19, the EU announced that Charles Michel, the president of the EU, had telephone conversations with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia about the situation in the region. As a result, it said, the two leaders agreed to meet on the sidelines of the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit.

“It is not clear yet how their Brussels meetings will look like, who of the EU leaders will sit, whether the defense ministers or foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will be present,” the EU official said.

Michel’s office said Pashinyan and Aliyev would meet “to discuss the regional situation and ways of overcoming tensions for a prosperous and stable South Caucasus, which the EU supports.” It said they also agreed to establish a direct communication line, at the level of defense ministers, “to serve as an incident prevention mechanism.”

The statement did not specify when such a line could become operational.

“The aim of the forthcoming talks is to establish some sort of trust between the two leaders via confidence building measures, especially in the field of connectivity,” the EU official said.

“We are talking here about transport corridors in Nagorno-Karabakh, transport projects involving both Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the source added.

The Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that Armenia and Azerbaijan signed to put an end to six weeks of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh last November also referred to a new route for a connection between Armenians inside Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia that was understood to be approved within the next three years, with the agreement of the parties, after which Russian peacekeepers would be redeployed to protect that route. It has been a year since the signing of that trilateral statement, but so far nothing has been reported about any agreement reached between the parties.

The passing week has seen a further escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan that on November 16 had their worst fighting along their un-demarcated border since the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

It was during that escalation that the president of the European Council had phone talks with Pashinyan and Aliyev, calling for “urgent de-escalation and full respect of the ceasefire.”

According to the EU source, “Michel, Pashinyan and Aliyev have built up quite a good rapport in the last couple of months, and Michel has spoken to them 4-6 times in the last couple of months.” Besides, Michel also speaks regularly with the presidents of Turkey and Russia, the source added.

Confirming the news of the upcoming meeting in Brussels, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on Saturday, November 20 that Baku has repeatedly stated its position on the post-conflict situation in the region, including in the international arena.

“In this regard, we believe that the summit of the Eastern Partnership, and the meeting that will take place on the sidelines of this event will create additional opportunities,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva said.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry has also confirmed the news of the upcoming meeting, but has not provided any further comments on that yet.

Turkey Mediation

Armenia has asked Russia to mediate in the normalization of its relations with Turkey, an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on November 22. Vahan Hunanyan said a number of Armenia’s partners, including Russia, have expressed readiness to mediate in Turkish-Armenian normalization and the Armenian side has asked Moscow to be a go-between.

A number of international partners, including Russia, have stated that they are ready to support the Armenian-Turkish settlement process. And we have informed Russia that we are ready to start the Armenian-Turkish settlement process without preconditions. When and if such a process starts, naturally, we will provide information on that, “Hunanyan said.

In August, the leaders of Armenia and Turkey spoke about “positive signals” coming from the other side of the border. In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even revealed that through Georgia’s prime minister, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had offered him to meet. He added, however, that for such a meeting to take place, Yerevan had to take “clear steps” towards “[opening] the Zangezur corridor [for Azerbaijan].”

Shortly afterwards Pashinyan reiterated through a spokesperson that Armenia does not accept what he called ‘corridor logic’ in unblocking transport links in the region, but added that Yerevan was ready for contacts with Ankara.

According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, no direct talks have taken place between Yerevan and Ankara yet.

In a recent interview with Le Figaro, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said that Ankara was setting new conditions for starting a dialogue with Yerevan, including the provision of an exterritorial corridor that would connect Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan.

Mirzoyan told the French daily that the demand for such a corridor was out of the question.

“States must allow transit while maintaining sovereignty over their territory,” he said. ”All transport links in the region must be reopened.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hunanyan said Mirzoyan’s remarks were based “on public statements made by Turkey about the so-called Zangezur corridor.”

“They [Turks] have constantly raised this subject at the level of both the president and the foreign minister. And we say that such a thing cannot happen. However, as I mentioned, there have been no negotiations, “the official added.

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