Putin Hosts Armenia, Azerbaijan For Talks On Border And Return To 'Normal Life'
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) sits across Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in the first face to face meeting between the three states since the end of the 2nd Karabakh War. Sochi, Russia, November 26, 2021. Image: Kremlin.ru
(RFE/RL) - The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have expressed their readiness to engage in the process of delimitating and demarcating their Soviet-era border and pursue unblocking of regional transport links as they began talks hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
At the start of the trilateral meeting on November 26, Putin told Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian that "a lot has been done" since last year's Moscow-brokered cease-fire ended 44 days of intense fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh and nearby districts.
A deadly flareup in the past week has rekindled fears of a return to large-scale violence.
"Unfortunately, not all issues have been settled. I know about tragic incidents at the borders in which people have been killed and wounded on both sides," Putin said. "These are things that require special attention on our part. Strictly speaking, it is for this purpose that we've also gathered together today, that is, to avoid such incidents in the future."
Putin urged the creation of conditions "for future normal life" in the region, where the cease-fire left Russian peacekeepers on the ground to keep the two sides apart.
He said a trilateral working group would be working on the resumption of transit in the area.
Putin cited "the special nature of relations" with the former Soviet republics Armenia and Azerbaijan and said a "revival of the region...has a great importance to Russia."
Aliyev said incidents in the conflict zone during the past year had not been of a systemic nature. He also said that one of the points of last year's cease-fire concerning unblocking the region remains unimplemented.
Aliyev reiterated Baku's readiness to start the process of delimitating the Soviet-era border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which sparked a war and decades of "frozen conflict" over Azerbaijani territory that was controlled by ethnic Armenians.
"We have also publicly offered to Armenia to start working on a peace treaty to put an end to confrontation, recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and learn again to live as neighbors in the future," Aliyev said.
Pashinian described the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh as "not as stable as one would like it to be."
Pashinian has faced stiff political resistance at home since the cease-fire, which many Armenians regarded as a national humiliation against a historic foe.
He said that despite the fact that the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is neither delimitated nor demarcated, "the state frontier still does exist."
Pashinian also said the cease-fire also called for a return of all prisoners of war and other detainees and that had not been fully implemented by the Azerbaijani side.
He also reiterated Yerevan's position that a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement should proceed within the framework of the OSCE's Minsk Group.
Pashinian expressed Armenia's readiness for a process of border demarcation with Azerbaijan, and said unblocking transit was crucial.
"I think that today we have gathered here not only to state about problems, but also to discuss ways of solving the problems that exist and reach concrete decisions -- or decisions that will be as much concrete as possible -- on stabilizing the situation in the South Caucasus, because peace, stability, and people's security are our responsibility," Pashinian said.
The three leaders then took their meeting behind closed doors.
Copyright (c)2021 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.