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Azerbaijan, Armenia hold talks, Russia proposes Moscow summit

Azerbaijan and Armenia held a fresh round of EU-mediated peace talks Saturday, while Russia offered a summit in Moscow in a bid to reassert its lead role in the normalisation process.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Brussels for talks aimed at resolving their decades-long conflict for the control of Armenian-populated Karabakh.

European Council President Charles Michel, who mediated the discussions, said the exchanges were “frank, honest and substantive”.

“I encouraged them to take courageous steps to ensure decisive and irreversible progress on a normalisation track,” he added.

Michel said he intended to organise a fresh meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan in Brussels and another in Spain in October involving German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The talks come amid renewed tensions after Azerbaijan closed the sole land link between Karabakh and Armenia on Tuesday.

Baku criticises Moscow

Baku and Yerevan have been trying to negotiate a peace deal with the help of the European Union and United States, whose growing diplomatic engagement in the Caucasus has irked traditional regional power broker Russia.

Moscow on Saturday offered to host the two countries’ foreign ministers and suggested the future peace treaty could be signed in Moscow.

Russia is ready “to organise a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers in Moscow in the near future”, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It also urged Azerbaijan to reopen the Lachin Corridor and said Armenia’s recent recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan “has radically changed the standing of the Russian peacekeeping contingent”.

“Under such conditions, the responsibility for the destiny of Karabakh’s Armenian population should not be shifted onto third countries,” it said, a possible reference to the Armenian separatists’ calls for Moscow to ensure the reopening of the land link.

Azerbaijan reacted angrily, accusing Russia of failing to fulfil its obligations under a 2020 Moscow-brokered ceasefire.

“The Russian side did not ensure full implementation of the agreement within the framework of its obligations,” Baku’s foreign ministry said, adding that Moscow “did nothing to prevent” Armenia’s military supplies from reaching separatist forces in Karabakh.

Adding to tensions with Yerevan, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry accused Armenian separatist forces in Karabakh of using “radio interference against… passenger aircraft flying through our country’s airspace”.

Karabakh’s rebel authorities dismissed the claims as an “absolute lie”.

Uneasy peace talks

On Friday, around 6,000 people rallied in Karabakh, calling for the reopening of the five-kilometre-wide Lachin Corridor.

Local separatists, warning of a humanitarian crisis, urged Moscow to ensure free movement through the road.

Azerbaijan later allowed the Red Cross to resume medical evacuations from Karabakh to Armenia.

Karabakh has been at the centre of a decades-long dispute between the two countries, which have fought two wars over the mountainous territory.

During previous rounds of Western-mediated talks, Baku and Yerevan made progress towards a peace agreement, but its signature remains a distant prospect.

Yerevan agreed to recognise Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan but demanded international mechanisms for protecting the rights and security of the region’s ethnic-Armenian population.

Baku insists such guarantees must be provided at the national level, rejecting any international format.

Armenia has relied on Russia for military and economic support since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has accused Moscow — bogged down in its war against Ukraine — of failing to fulfil its peacekeeping role in Karabakh.

Source: France24