Putin: talks with Armenia and Azerbaijani leaders “constructive”
MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said his talks in southern Russia on Friday with leaders of regional rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan were “constructive” and resulted in a series of agreements on key issues.
The meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the city of Sochi lasted around three hours and marked the first anniversary of a peace deal brokered by Moscow that ended fighting in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
In remarks after the meeting, Putin said the three leaders “have reached agreement on a whole range of issues” which he considers “key”.
Aliyev and Pashinyan echoed Putin’s positive assessment. The Azerbaijani president said the conversation was “open” and “genuine”, and the Armenian prime minister called it “positive”.
Putin also held two separate bilateral meetings with Aliyev and Pashinyan on Friday, before and after the three-party talks.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area which is in Azerbaijan but which had been under the control of Armenian ethnic forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
The Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces during 44 days of fierce fighting in the fall of 2020, which ended with a Russian-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan take control of a important part of Nagorno-Karabakh and recover all areas controlled by Armenian forces. outside the separatist region.
Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace agreement.
The peace deal was celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan, but was seen as a betrayal by the opposition in Armenia. Pashinyan defended it as the only way to prevent Armenian forces from losing control of the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The 2020 agreement provided for a transport corridor through Armenia that would connect Azerbaijan to its enclave in the Nakhichevan region – a plan the Armenian opposition resented, which also fears Armenian interests could be compromised by the demarcation. planned border.
Opening the meeting with Pashinyan and Aliyev on Friday, Putin said Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia “have accomplished a lot” in a year since signing the peace agreement. There is no large-scale fighting, some 53,000 refugees have returned home and Russian peacekeepers are ensuring the safety of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, he said.
In their opening remarks, Aliyev and Pashinyan said they were ready to start work on the delimitation and demarcation of the border.
Pashinyan, however, noted that the situation at the border and in Nagorno-Karabakh is “not as stable as one would like” and said that “dozens of people on both sides” have died in clashes over the course of the year. of the past year. He called the situation at the border a “crisis”.
“Our assessment is that the Azerbaijani forces have made an incursion into the sovereign territory of Armenia,” he said.
The Armenian prime minister also said that the issue of prisoners of war, hostages and other people held in captivity remains unresolved.
Aliyev, in turn, said that the Azerbaijani authorities have publicly offered to start drawing up an appropriate peace treaty with Armenia “to end the confrontation, recognize territorial integrity, sovereignty and live as neighbors to the future, (or) relearn how to live as neighbors.
He also said on Friday that Azerbaijan had handed over more than 100 prisoners of war to Armenia since last year’s fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
After the meeting, Putin said the three leaders agreed to create, before the end of the year, mechanisms to delimit and demarcate the border between the two countries.
They also discussed “unblocking transport corridors, which include both railways and roads,” and made “significant progress” on unspecified “humanitarian issues”, Putin said.