Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosts talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Moscow, May 19, 2023.

Russia Sounds Caution On Armenian-Azeri Peace Deal

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MOSCOW (Azatutyun) — The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have narrowed their differences on a bilateral peace treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday, May 19,  after hosting fresh talks between them in Moscow.

But he suggested that the two sides need to restore Armenian-Azerbaijani transport links, start delimiting their long border and bolster the ceasefire regime in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone before they can finalize such a treaty.

Lavrov held separate talks with Foreign Ministers Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan before sitting down with them in a trilateral format.

“Work on the peace treaty is undoubtedly fundamental,” he told the press after the trilateral meeting. ”But our partners confirmed today that without solving the issues of delimitation, unblocking transport and economic links and an overall improvement of the security situation in both Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border it’s very hard to make progress on concrete aspects of the peace treaty . We discussed all this together.”

Lavrov said in that regard that a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani task force dealing with practical modalities of the transport links will meet next week after a long pause.

“We hope that a positive result will be achieved as a result. The parties are already very, very close to a final agreement,” he said without elaborating.

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Lavrov further announced that a separate Armenian-Azerbaijani group working on the border delimitation and demarcation with Russian assistance will also resume its activities soon.

“Regarding the peace treaty, I think that on a number of articles which we discussed today we managed to bring the two sides’ understandings closer to a common vision,” added the top Russian diplomat.

As Lavrov spoke, Bayramov and Mirzoyan continued their negotiations in his absence. Mirzoyan’s press office said afterwards that the two ministers had a “constructive exchange of views on issues on which the parties have differences.” It did not disclose those issues.

According to the US State Department, Bayramov and Mirzoyan made “tangible progress” towards the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal during their four-day talks held outside Washington earlier this month.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev tried to build on that progress when they met in Brussels on May 14. Pashinyan afterwards reaffirmed Armenia’s readiness to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity through the document currently discussed by the two sides.

The two leaders are due to meet again in Moscow on May 25 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit is slated for June 1. Aliyev and Pashinyan will be joined by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Union chief Charles Michel. Analysts believe that the United States and the EU are pressuring the parties to sign the far-reaching deal.

Moscow has repeatedly accused the West of trying to use the Karabakh conflict to drive Russia out of the South Caucasus. It maintains that Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Putin are the only viable blueprint for settling the conflict.

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