From left, Nikol Pashinyan, Charles Michel and Ilham Aliyev

EU’s Michel Reports ‘Tangible Progress’ Made At Armenian-Azeri Summit

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BRUSSELS (Azatutyun) — Armenia and Azerbaijan’s leaders made progress towards negotiating a bilateral peace treaty, demarcating the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and opening transport links between the two countries, European Council President Charles Michel said early on May 23 after hosting fresh talks between them the previous day.

Michel held a trilateral meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels for the second time in less than two months.

“The leaders agreed to advance discussions on the future peace treaty governing inter-state relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Michel told reporters. “Teams led by the [Armenian and Azerbaijani] foreign ministers will take forward this process in the coming weeks.”

“In addition to this track, I also stressed to both leaders that it was necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed,” he said.

Michel did not say whether Aliyev and Pashinyan agreed on the agenda of the planned negotiations on the Armenian-Azerbaijani treaty. Pashinyan’s office did not report any agreements to that effect in a statement on the Brussels summit.

In March, Baku presented Yerevan with five elements which it wants to be at the heart of the treaty. They include a mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity.

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The Armenian government said they should be complemented by other issues relating to the future status of Karabakh and the security of its population. Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said last Wednesday that Baku has not yet agreed to discuss them as well.

The government revealed its counterproposals after Armenia’s leading opposition groups launched on May 1 daily demonstrations in a bid to force Pashinyan to resign. Opposition leaders claim that he has agreed to restore Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. They cite the prime minister’s statements made following his previous meeting with Aliyev held on April 6.

Michel announced following the latest summit that a newly formed Armenian-Azerbaijani commission on the border demarcation will hold its first meeting “in the coming days.” Also, he said, Aliyev and Pashinyan made significant progress towards opening the border to commerce and cargo shipments.

“Notably they agreed on principles of border administration, security, land fees but also customs in the context of international transport,” he said without elaborating. ”The deputy prime ministers [of Armenia and Azerbaijan] will take this work forward in the coming days.”

Pashinyan’s office said in this regard that the two leaders reached understandings on “the further course of work on the opening of regional communications.” It too did not give any details.

It was thus not clear whether the two sides ironed out their differences on the status of an Armenian road and railway that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave. Aliyev has said that people and cargo passing through them must be exempt from Armenian border controls. Armenian leaders have until now rejected his demands for an exterritorial land corridor.

Armenian-Azerbaijani transport links are envisaged by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 war in Karabakh. Shortly after the truce, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan set up a trilateral commission tasked with working out their practical modalities.

The commission has not met since December. Moscow moved to revive its activities last month after accusing the West of trying to hijack its efforts to make peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Lavrov Talks with Foreign Ministers

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts by phone on May 23, one day after the leaders of the two South Caucasus states met again in Brussels.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry reported that Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov discussed with Lavrov the results of the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit hosted by the European Union’s top official. It said they also spoke about the implementation of Russian-brokered agreements to establish transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan and to demarcate their border.

The same issues were also on the agenda of Lavrov’s call with Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, they discussed, in particular, the formation of an Armenian-Azerbaijani commission on the border demarcation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev set up on Monday two such commissions comprising senior Armenian and Azerbaijani officials respectively.

Russia brokered similar understandings between Armenia and Azerbaijan after helping to stop a six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020. Moscow accused the EU and the United States of trying to hijack its peace efforts following the previous Aliyev-Pashinyan encounter hosted by Michel on April 6.

According to official Russian readouts of Lavrov’s phone calls, Mirzoyan and Bayramov reaffirmed their governments’ declared commitments to fully implement the Russian-brokered agreements. Lavrov had already received such assurances from them at a trilateral meeting in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe on May 12.

From left, Ararat Mirzoyan, Sergey Lavrov and Jeyhun Bayramov

The top Russian diplomat was also reported to discuss with them “a number of further joint steps” on the border demarcation, the opening of Armenian-Azerbaijani transport links as well as planned negotiations on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty.

It remains unclear whether the conflicting sides are planning to restart the work of a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani task force dealing with economic and transport issues. Mirzoyan indicated in Dushanbe that it will meet in Moscow on May 16 after a nearly five-month hiatus. The meeting did not take place, however.

It also remains to be seen whether Russian officials will be involved in the demarcation process in an advisory capacity.

 

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