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26 April 2024

Positive signs of a rapprochement between Azerbaijan and Armenia?

Since before the break-up of the USSR, Armenia and Azerbaijan have seen each other as mortal enemies, yet normalizing relations could be a win-win situation. Comments from both Baku and Yerevan this week suggest that moves toward this normalization might finally be on the horizon.

Ilham Aliyev at the International Forum “COP29 and Green Vision for Azerbaijan”

Image: president.az

On 25 April 2024, Alen Simonian, the speaker of the Armenian Parliament, stated that buying natural gas from Azerbaijan was a “very good option.” While qualifying the statement by underlining that the issue had not been officially discussed by the Armenian leadership, he joked that, after all, much of the gas imported from Russia by Armenia is probably from Azerbaijan anyway.

The comments might seem insignificant, if not blindingly obvious, but in the turbid waters of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, nonetheless they represent an important recognition and a hint that important moves towards a more lasting peace settlement are underway.

Simonian’s statement doesn’t come out of nowhere, either. In Baku, on 23 April, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed a meeting in preparation for the COP29 meeting, which will be held in Baku in November. Hidden away in a significant Q&A, in which Aliyev spoke without notes in English, the president answered a question from Georgian broadcaster George Gvimradze, saying: “Our export capacity can go through Armenia. Potentially, it can be even a gas pipeline.” 

Aliyev reminded his audience—and the wider world of geopolitical observers—that “neither Georgia nor Azerbaijan face any kind of difficulties today with respect to their energy or transportation security. The country which lacks it is Armenia.” Though mocking Yerevan’s ‘phobia’ over a Zangezur Corridor (the idea of a road/rail and possibly also pipeline route between the Nakhchivan exclave and the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia), Aliyev also stated—in response to a question by ex-US Ambassador Matthew Bryza—that:

With respect to the border delimitation, Azerbaijan and Armenia behave in a very constructive way. What is seen is only a part. It is a result, but this result is based on regular contacts and positive dynamics. So, we need to consolidate on that and move forward.

This is relatively upbeat talk. And the mirroring of this in Yerevan, implied by Alen Simonian’s statements on Thursday, leads to hope that a genuine breakthrough is getting closer for a full peace settlement in the South Caucasus.