| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

EU tries to push Azerbaijan-Armenia peace as Russia offers more talks

The European Union encouraged Azerbaijan and Armenia to avoid “violence and harsh rhetoric” at the most recent round of negotiations in a protracted reconciliation process in which Russia is also attempting to maintain a dominant position.

Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia met with EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels for talks aimed at ending more than three decades of animosity.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two countries have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, a small mountainous enclave that is part of Azerbaijan but populated by about 120,000 ethnic Armenians.

Armenia says the proposed peace treaty should provide special rights for them and guarantee their security. Azberbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov rejected that demand in an interview with Reuters in June, saying it was unnecessary and amounted to interference in Azerbaijan’s affairs.

“Real progress depends on the next steps that will need to be taken in the near future. As a matter of priority, violence and harsh rhetoric should stop in order to provide the proper environment for peace and normalisation talks,” Michel said.

He told reporters: “The population on the ground needs reassurances, first and foremost regarding their rights and security.”

Michel said he also expressed the EU’s encouragement for Azerbaijan to talk directly to the Karabakh Armenians in order to develop confidence between the parties.

It was not clear how Aliyev reacted, as he and Pashinyan left without briefing reporters. The de facto leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh claims to be independent but is not recognised by any country.

Besides the EU, the United States has also been pushing the sides to reach a peace deal. Russia, the traditional power broker in the region, has been distracted by the war in Ukraine and risks seeing its influence diminished.

Russia said on Saturday that it was ready to organise a three-way meeting with Armenia and Azerbaijan at the level of foreign ministers. This could be followed up with a Moscow summit to sign a peace treaty, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said an integral part of this pact should be “reliable and clear guarantees of the rights and security of the Armenians of Karabakh” and implementation of earlier agreements between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

  • Reuters