Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have made significant progress towards an eventual peace agreement between the two countries, something that has been lacking since the break-up of the USSR in 1991.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met in Brussels on 6 April in triangular talks with President of the Council of the European Union (EU) Charles Michel. In the aftermath of the meeting, Charles Michel described the talks as productive.
He announced the desire of Baku and Yerevan to "move quickly" towards a peace agreement between the countries. “To this end, an agreement was reached to instruct the foreign ministers to prepare a future peace treaty that would resolve all the necessary issues,” the head of the European Council said in a sum-up statement posted on the EU website following the second trilateral meeting.
According to the statement, the parties agreed to create a joint border commission by the end of April to delimit and demarcate the border. The commission's mandate includes the delimitation of the border and the maintenance of stability and security both at the border and in its area. The parties also confirmed the need to fully comply with the provisions of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020.
According to Michel, there is an urgent need for a full and speedy resolution of all outstanding humanitarian issues, including "the release of the remaining detainees and a comprehensive solution to the problem of the missing", noting that the EU is ready to support these efforts.
"The EU will also continue to support confidence-building measures between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as humanitarian demining efforts, including through the provision of expert advice and increased financial assistance, as well as assistance to the conflict-affected population, rehabilitation and reconstruction," he said.
He noted that "ensuring proper distancing of forces" is an important element in preventing incidents and reducing tensions, and reaffirmed the EU's willingness to provide advice and support.
During the meeting the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia also discussed the restoration of communications between the two countries in particular and in the South Caucasus in general. Michel welcomed the steps to restore the railway lines, urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to also find a way to restore the road connection, stating the EU's support for these steps.
According to Pashinyan, Armenia's position is that there is a de jure border with Azerbaijan, that border is the boundary existing in Soviet times, the demarcation work should start on this basis, and there is a need to try to find solutions by taking parallel measures to ensure security and stability.
"You know that there are territories of Armenia that are under the control of Azerbaijan, there are territories of Azerbaijan that are under the control of Armenia, and these issues must be resolved as a result of negotiations—naturally, on the basis of de jure substantiated protocols, facts of legal significance. Russia, the European Union have expressed readiness to provide assistance to the delimitation and demarcation work, and we shall move forward in this regard," he said.
The Kremlin assessed the decision of the authorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan to start the process of negotiations on a peace treaty as "positive", according to the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov. “It is clear that this process is very, very lengthy, but progress towards the conclusion of such a document is in itself a positive fact and is welcome,” he said according to TASS .
However, the status of the Armenian-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh region remains ambiguous as it was not discussed during the meeting.
Azerbaijani MP Asim Mollazadeh, in an interview with Meydan TV, said that the status of Karabakh and the Minsk Group is not a subject for today: "Today, the demarcation of borders, a peace agreement and the opening of communications are on the agenda. Armenia is also responsible for this, and Yerevan must implement all the documents it has signed."
He said he doesn't consider Russia to be a problem and noted that Moscow, despite its disagreement with the EU on other topics, is on board when it comes to peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Political commentator Rauf Mirkadirov, however, is of the opinion that the current global situation narrows the opportunities for cooperation and diplomatic relations between the West and Russia over the Azerbaijan-Armenia dispute: "Charles Michel is one of the main anti-Russian leaders of the European Union. Charles Michel and Western leaders understand that the OSCE Minsk Group is not a collective body to resolve the conflict," he said.
According to him, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could become entangled with the Ukrainian conflict in terms of the energy security concerns of the West: "The Caucasus region is very important in terms of energy security and transit goals. Whether it wants to or not, Azerbaijan is becoming an integral part of the confrontation. Keep in mind that the current confrontation will not stop with the restriction of military operations in Ukraine, the process will take a long time," he said.