Azerbaijan-Armenia peace echoes again in Brussels
    Key issues of normalisation discussed in sixth-of-a-kind meeting

    ANALYTICS  17 July 2023 - 16:50

    Mushvig Mehdiyev

    The recent meeting of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Belgian capital of Brussels has come as the manifestation of endeavours to speed up the normalisation process.

    European Council President Charles Michel, who hosted the meeting on July 15, described it as “one of the most comprehensive and vigorous stages of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan”.

    The Azerbaijani president's press service said the meeting highlighted the normalisation of Baku-Yerevan relations, the continuation of talks toward a peace treaty, border delimitation, the opening of transport communications, the potential "withdrawal of Armenia's armed groups" from Karabakh, and the potential "disarmament of illegal armed groups in Karabakh Armenians”, which they label it as their “defence army".

    At a separate meeting with Michel on 14 July, President Aliyev said that the Brussels format for the Baku-Yerevan peace talks was "efficient".

    Meanwhile, the press office of the Armenian government reported that the sides had agreed "to intensify work to settle issues discussed", Armenpress state-owned news agency wrote.

    According to the Armenian side, Armenian-Azerbaijani border demarcation and border security, the unblocking of regional transport and economic infrastructure, an agreement on settling Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, the “security and rights” of Karabakh Armenians, and other issues were put on the table during the Brussels talks.

    In a statement briefing the results of the meeting, President Michel said the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders once again fully reconfirmed mutual respect for territorial integrities and sovereignty based on the understanding that Armenia’s territory covers 29.800 square kilometres and Azerbaijan’s 86.600 square kilometres.

    For border delimitation, there was an agreement to intensify and accelerate the work of the commissions tasked with handling the issues pertaining to the process, according to Michel.

    On the restoration of communication links, Michel welcomed the progress achieved by Azerbaijan and Armenia in discussions over the past two months.

    “We discussed modalities of future transport arrangements which will respect the principles of sovereignty, jurisdiction and reciprocity. The construction of the railway connection should be undertaken forthwith. The EU would be ready to contribute financially. Some details still require clarification, but positions on this topic are now getting closer and options are being actively explored,” Michel said, per the press service of the European Council.

    The European Union’s approach to the consideration of the “rights and securities” of the Armenian population in Karabakh favoured a direct dialogue between Baku and the representatives of the Karabakh Armenian community.

    The arguably controversial remarks by Michel came about the Lachin road, which he said should be “opened”, whereas it has been open since July 14 after a temporary closure.

    Baku closed the Lachin border checkpoint on July 11 after the customs employees reported attempts for the smuggling of undeclared goods into Karabakh by Armenians. On 14 July, Azerbaijani media said the checkpoint had resumed operation for Karabakh patients travelling to Armenia. The checkpoint, established in April, had also been closed from 15 June to 25 June following a shooting incident resulting in the injury of an Azerbaijani border guard.

    Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia launched a full-scale military campaign against Azerbaijan, resulting in the longest and deadliest war in the South Caucasus region. The war ended in a ceasefire in 1994, with Armenia forcibly occupying 20 per cent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. This occupation led to the deaths of over 30,000 Azerbaijanis and the expulsion of one million others in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.

    On September 27, 2020, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia escalated when Armenian forces in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. In a counter-attack that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, effectively ending the nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war concluded with a tripartite statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. Under this statement, Armenia also returned the occupied districts of Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin to Azerbaijan.

    Following Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2020 war, cartographic complications emerged along the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. Azerbaijan regained control over a significant portion of the border, leading to the deployment of units from the Armed Forces and State Border Service in border regions, including Kalbajar and Lachin, to strengthen border protection.

    Since then, there have been frequent provocations against the Azerbaijani army by the Armenian military, including bloody incidents, leading to significant complications on the frontier.

    Baku has been urging for the immediate initiation of the delimitation and demarcation process to ease tensions with Yerevan. The process is based on five fundamental principles, proposed by the Azerbaijani government to Armenia in March 2022, aimed at normalization and the establishment of lasting peace.

    Russia wants a peace treaty signing in Moscow

    In the meantime, about half an hour before the trilateral meeting kicked off in Brussels, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement urging Baku and Yerevan to sign their potential peace treaty in Moscow.

    The statement said that work to draft the peace treaty should start "immediately" and that Moscow was ready to host "in the very near future" trilateral talks of the Armenian, Azerbaijaniç and Russian foreign ministers to be followed by a meeting of the three countries' leaders in Moscow to sign the treaty.

    The ministry said the potential treaty should include "reliable and clear guarantees of the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians" and envisage the "strict implementation of the entire set of trilateral agreements among Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, including the unblocking of transport communications and the launch of the process of delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border".

    It called on Baku to "take urgent measures to immediately unblock the Lacin corridor, resume the unobstructed movement along it of members of the public, transport vehicles and cargoes in both directions and [enable] energy supply to the region".

    Meanwhile, Baku says the issue of ensuring Karabakh Armenians' rights is Azerbaijan's internal affair and must not involve any external actor.

    Nearly 25,000 Armenians reside in certain parts of the Karabakh region, monitored by a temporary Russian peacekeeping mission. Shortly after the war, the government of Azerbaijan voiced its readiness to reintegrate these people into Azerbaijani society in line with the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan.

    On March 1, officials from Azerbaijan met with the representatives of Armenians residing in the Karabakh region. During the meeting, preliminary discussions were held on their reintegration into Azerbaijani society. In late March, the Azerbaijani authorities invited the representatives of Karabakh Armenians to Baku for a second meeting.

    However, a group of separatists in the Karabakh region meddled to derail the process. They have been seeking a so-called status for the region’s Armenian population, demanding “independence” from Azerbaijan.


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