One of the new demarcation markers

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan by phone at the weekend, again welcoming their border delimitation agreement that sparked ongoing angry protests in Armenia.

The US State Department said that in his separate phone calls with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev Blinken praised them for agreeing to “use the Alma Ata Declaration as a basis for border delimitation.” The declaration was signed by independent former Soviet republics that recognized each other’s Soviet-era borders.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani understanding praised by Blinken is part of the border deal announced by the two sides on April 19. It commits Armenia to handing over to Azerbaijan four disputed border areas occupied by Armenian forces in 1991-1992. They have since been part of Armenia’s northern Tavush province.

For its part, Azerbaijan seized at the time large swathes of agricultural land belonging to several Tavush villages. None of that land will be given back to Armenia under the terms of the deal.

Residents of some of those border villages, which would be directly affected by the handover, have been holding nonstop demonstrations since April 20. They say they would lose much of their agricultural land, have trouble communicating with the rest of the country and be far more vulnerable to Azerbaijani armed attacks.

According to the official Armenian readout of his call with Blinken, Pashinyan “spoke positively about the demarcation process” while pledging to address the “legitimate concerns” of the Armenian border villagers. Some of those villagers have accused Pashinyan of lying about details of the land handover during his meetings with them held in March and earlier in April.

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Aliyev was likewise reported to tell Blinken that “the start of the border delimitation process was a positive step.”

“The Secretary urged President Aliyev to keep up the momentum with his Armenian counterpart, reiterating US willingness to support those efforts,” the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said in a statement on their conversation.


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