Armenia and Azerbaijan are optimistic about normalization at the Moscow talks

Archenemies Armenia and Azerbaijan are moving toward normalizing relations after mutual recognition of territorial integrity, the leaders of the two countries said Thursday during talks in Moscow.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met separately with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the three held joint talks on Thursday evening.

The talks followed recent deadly border clashes between the two Caucasian neighbors, who have been embroiled in a years-long conflict over control of Azerbaijan’s predominantly Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“There is a possibility to reach a peace agreement, given that Armenia has formally recognized Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan,” Aliyev said on the eve of the talks.

“Azerbaijan has no territorial claims against Armenia,” he added.

Pashinyan said that both countries “made good progress in normalizing relations based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity.”

He stated that Yerevan is ready to “unblock all transport connections in the region passing through the territory of Armenia.”

Putin said that “despite all the difficulties and problems that still remain, the situation is developing towards a settlement” of the Karabakh conflict.

He said that the vice-prime ministers of the three countries will meet in Moscow in a week to “solve the remaining issues” regarding the resumption of transportation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Western interaction

The Caucasian neighbors are trying to conclude a peace agreement with the help of the European Union and the United States.

They agreed on mutual recognition of territorial integrity on May 14 at a meeting in Brussels organized by the Chairman of the European Council, Charles Michel.

But the West’s diplomatic engagement in the Caucasus irritates Moscow, the traditional power broker in the region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars — in 2020 and in the 1990s — over control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Six weeks of hostilities in the fall of 2020 ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire in which Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades.

Armenia, which has relied on Russia for military and economic support since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has accused Moscow of failing to fulfill its peacekeeping role in Karabakh.

Yerevan’s concerns grew after Azerbaijani activists blocked Karabakh’s only land link with Armenia in December. In April, Azerbaijan established a checkpoint with border guards on this route.

Last year, Yerevan also accused Azerbaijan of occupying part of its territory, which it said led to military aggression, and demanded military aid from Russia, which was never implemented.

With Russia mired in Ukraine and unwilling to escalate relations with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkey, the US and the European Union are trying to restore relations between the Caucasian rivals.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. About 30,000 people died as a result of the conflict.

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