Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan (right) and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (left) in the Kremlin on Thursday. © IMAGO/Mikhail Metzel/ITAR-TASS
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in a tense debate in front of the Kremlin chief in the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Moscow - The hostile Caucasus neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow on May 25 to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the trilateral meeting, mediated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, there was "good progress in normalizing relations," Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said afterwards. Previously, however, Pashinyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev had engaged in a war of words in Russian for several minutes in front of the Kremlin chief.
Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh region causes tense debate before Putin
The Russian-brokered talks took place against the backdrop of the renewed violent conflict between the two ex-Soviet republics over the border region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave inhabited by a majority of Armenians. Most recently, deadly clashes broke out again at the border after Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor, the only connecting road from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, at the end of April. Baku cited the fact that Armenia uses the route to transport weapons to Nagorno-Karabakh, which Yerevan denies.
The heads of government of the two countries met with Kremlin leader Putin for tripartite talks. Videos of the meeting showed a tense conversation between Aliyev and Pashinyan in Russian that lasted several minutes, which Putin initially followed quietly. The Reuters news agency interpreted this interaction between the two ex-Soviet republics as a clear sign of tensions between the two nations. In overlays, it can be seen how the Kremlin chief looked down again and again with tense facial expressions. By means of a corresponding hand gesture, Putin ended the dispute after several minutes.
Armenia increasingly dissatisfied with Moscow's conflict mediation
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union and have already fought two wars over the area. After the recent fighting in 2020, Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement that forced Armenia to surrender large territories. Moscow has traditionally been the main mediator in the conflict. However, Yerevan had recently expressed increasing dissatisfaction with what it saw as insufficient efforts by the Kremlin to protect Armenia against the military threat posed by Azerbaijan. Moscow is currently heavily involved in the Ukraine war and does not want to strain its relations with Turkey - Azerbaijan's most important ally.
Regarding the current conflict, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan said that Yerevan is ready to "unblock all transport links in the region that pass through Armenian territory." Aliyev, for his part, had said before the talks that there was a possibility of a peace agreement, as Armenia had officially recognized the disputed border region of Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan "does not make territorial claims to Armenia," he added.
Putin said after the talks that the situation was developing "despite all the difficulties and problems that still exist towards a settlement of the conflict." He announced another trilateral summit next week in Moscow "to resolve the remaining issues," including the resumption of transport links between the two countries. Most recently, the EU and the USA had also taken the initiative in mediation between the quarrelling ex-Soviet republics. Putin viewed this with suspicion, as Moscow considers the Caucasus region to be a Russian sphere of influence (AFP/bme).