Armenia and Azerbaijan promise “concrete measures” to ease relations

This is a “major step forward” according to Brussels

Armenia and Azerbaijan promise “concrete measures” to ease relations

This is a “major step forward” according to Brussels. Armenia and Azerbaijan promised, Thursday, December 7, “concrete measures” to calm their very tense relations, after three decades of conflict for control of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, reconquered in September by Baku.

In recent weeks, however, negotiations have made little progress between these two Caucasian countries, despite their stated objective of signing a peace agreement to permanently bury the hatchet. But, following talks on Thursday between the office of the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinian, and that of the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliev, Baku and Yerevan issued a joint statement.

Azerbaijan and Armenia committed to taking “concrete measures aimed at strengthening confidence”, according to this text, and reaffirmed “their intention to normalize their ties and sign a peace agreement”. They also agreed on the release of thirty-two Armenian prisoners of war, in exchange for that of two Azerbaijani soldiers.

The two countries “will continue to discuss confidence-building measures that will be taken in the near future and call for support from the international community,” according to this document.

“Build Confidence”

On X, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, welcomed this joint declaration and the announced release of prisoners on Thursday, calling them “an unprecedented opening in political dialogue”. “Today’s progress is a key milestone. I now encourage leaders to finalize an Armenia-Azerbaijan peace agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.

Armenian diplomacy also claimed Thursday to have responded “positively” to a proposal from American Secretary of State Antony Blinken to organize a meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in Washington.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been engaged for decades in a territorial conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Baku reconquered in September after a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists. Almost the entire Armenian population of the region, more than 100,000 people out of the 120,000 recorded, has since fled to Armenia.

Regular incidents at the border

The Azerbaijani victory marked the end of a dispute that led to two wars, one in the early 1990s, the other for six weeks in the fall of 2020, which left tens of thousands dead. Armed incidents still take place regularly on the border between the two countries. Armenia, for example, claimed on Monday that one of its soldiers had been killed near the border with the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan.

Several rounds of negotiations led separately in recent months by Russia, the European Union and the United States have not produced results. The traditional arbiter in the region, Moscow, monopolized by its offensive in Ukraine, has lost influence, and its relations have become strained with the Armenian ally, which criticizes it for a lack of support.

In mid-November, Azerbaijan refused to participate in peace talks with Armenia, scheduled in the United States for November, citing a "biased" position from Washington after comments by the American Deputy Secretary of State, James O. 'Brien. It was then announced that James O'Brien would visit the Azerbaijani capital in December for talks aimed at fostering peace.

In October, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev refused to meet Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian in Spain due to recent European, particularly French, support for Armenia.