Nikol Pashinyan being interviewed

Pashinyan Points to Lingering Differences Between Armenia, Azerbaijan After U.S.-Sponsored Peace Talks

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By Heghine Buniatian

PRAGUE (RFE/RL) — Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan still sees a “huge difference” between the wording of a draft peace agreement for Armenia and Azerbaijan and the two sides’ positions despite reported progress in bilateral talks hosted by the United States this week.

In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on May 5, Pashinyan said the key differences concern not only Nagorno-Karabakh but also territorial and security guarantees.

“We are still unable to reach agreement in the draft peace agreement on the wording that will give us confidence that Azerbaijan recognizes 29,800 square kilometers of Armenia” within its Soviet-era borders, he said.

Pashinyan also highlighted the need for guarantees as “any agreement, even the most unambiguously written one, allows for interpretations.”

Pashinyan, who spoke with RFE/RL while on a two-day official visit to Prague, referred to the draft bilateral Agreement on Peace and Establishment of Interstate Relations that was discussed by Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, during the U.S.-sponsored talks.

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A joint statement issued on May 4 at the conclusion of the talks said Mirzoyan and Bayramov and their teams “made progress in mutual understanding on some articles of the draft bilateral [peace agreement]” but noted that positions on a number of key issues remain different.

Despite U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s optimism that “with additional goodwill, flexibility, and compromise, an agreement is within reach,” Pashinyan assessed the progress as minimal.

“While the difference between the sides was one kilometer before, now it is 990 meters. It is progress, but there is still a huge difference,” he said in the interview with RFE/RL.

Pashinyan reiterated Armenia’s position that the issue of the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians should be discussed in a dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert with international engagement.

“Otherwise, this topic and agenda can simply be forgotten by Azerbaijan,” he said, adding that there are different interpretations in Yerevan and Baku on how to address the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians.

He also said that both international and local mechanisms should be applied to such matters as the withdrawal of troops and the establishment of a demilitarized zone.

Pashinyan said the discussion that started in Washington can continue in Moscow, denying claims there are differing “Western” and “Russian” drafts.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for decades. Some 30,000 people were killed in a war in the early 1990s that left ethnic Armenians in control of the predominantly Armenian-populated region and seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan proper.

Decades of internationally mediated talks failed to result in a diplomatic solution, and the simmering conflict led to another war in 2020 in which nearly 7,000 soldiers were killed on both sides.

The six-week war in which Azerbaijan regained all the Armenian-controlled areas outside of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as chunks of territory inside the Soviet-era autonomous region ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to serve as peacekeepers.

Tensions along the restive Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around Nagorno-Karabakh leading to sporadic fighting and loss of life have persisted despite the cease-fire and the presence of Russian troops.

They flared anew last month when Azerbaijan installed a road checkpoint at the start of the Lachin Corridor, the only route linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia says the checkpoint, set up on April 23, is a violation of the cease-fire. Azerbaijan insists it established it in response to what it says were Armenian military supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia denies that accusation.

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