Voskepar, a village in the Tavush border region

Baku Insists On Armenian Withdrawal From Four Border Villages

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By Shoghik Galstian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Just days after the latest round of talks on delimiting the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Azerbaijan demanded over the weekend that Armenia immediately and unconditionally withdraw from four border villages.

The office of Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev, who led the Azerbaijani delegation in the March 6 talks, said that “there is no doubt about their belonging to Azerbaijan.”

The ruined villages are among eight border areas, most of them enclaves inside Armenia, which were controlled by Azerbaijan in Soviet times and occupied by the Armenian army in the early 1990s. For its part, the Azerbaijani side seized at the time a bigger Armenian enclave as well as large swathes of agricultural land belonging to this and several other border communities of Armenia. It occupied more Armenian territory during border clashes in 2021 and 2022.

The Armenian government says that a total of 200 square kilometers of Armenia’s internationally recognized territory adjacent to 31 Armenian communities is now controlled by Azerbaijan. It says that it is ready, in principle, to consider swapping the former Azerbaijani enclaves for those lands or seek other compromise solutions.

Reaffirming Baku’s position on the issue, Mustafayev’s office claimed that Azerbaijan never occupied any Armenian territory. It said that the “immediate liberation” of the four villages must take place before the two sides start delimiting and demarcating their border. The delimitation process must result in Armenian withdrawal from the four other disputed areas, he said.

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The Armenian government did not comment on the demand as of Monday evening. The office of Mustafayev’s Armenian opposite number, Mher Grigoryan, was in no rush to reply to a written question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Vagharshak Hakobyan, a pro-government parliamentarian, urged reporters to keep waiting for an official reaction. He also said vaguely that border talks between countries around the world typically result in mutual territorial concessions.

Opposition lawmakers were concerned about the development. One of them, Gegham Manukyan, said that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s ambiguous position and statements on the issue could be used by Azerbaijan for legitimizing a “new aggression” against Armenia.

Yerevan insists on using the most recent Soviet military maps to ascertain the long border between the two South Caucasus countries. Baku rejects the idea backed by the European Union.

The lingering border disputes are a key hurdle to the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty. In an interview with Turkish state television broadcast late last week, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan complained that Baku now does not want the treaty to make any reference to the 1991 Almaty declaration by newly independent ex-Soviet republics that certified their Soviet-era borders.

 

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