Baku and Yerevan make conflicting statements on reopening transport links

Over the weekend, officials in Baku and Yerevan made conflicting statements on negotiations concerning the reopening of transport links between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Negotiations to this end have been taking place over the past weeks in a trilateral format involving the deputy prime ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia.

In an interview published on the Azerbaijani outlet on Saturday (10 June), the Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev said that talks on reopening regional transport communications "are held on the basis of clause 9 of the [10 November 2020 Trilateral Declaration] for the soonest implementation of its provisions."

"The restoration and construction of new transport communications between the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the western districts of Azerbaijan are envisaged. Passenger, cargo and vehicle transportation will be ensured," he said.

When asked about whether Russia will control transport communication between mainland Azerbaijan and its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, Mustafayev replied that, under the 10 November Trilateral Declaration, "the control will be carried out by the border services of the Russian FSB to ensure the unhindered movement of citizens, vehicles and cargoes." He added that discussions were being held to agree on "technical details".

No such agreement has been reached - Armenian Deputy Prime Minister

Later that day, however, the Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan countered his Azerbaijani counterpart, telling that "no such agreement was reached during the discussions of the tripartite working group, including the last meeting."

"Armenia's position has and continues to be that the roads provided for in paragraph 9 of the [10 November 2020 Trilateral Declaration] shall operate under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the parties on the principle of reciprocity," he added.

The issue of reopening transport links was the focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trilateral meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in Moscow on 25 May. You can read more about this here.

Mustafayev, Grigoryan and the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk then met in the Russian capital on 2 June to try to settle what Putin called "purely technical" issues preventing the opening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to commercial traffic.

RFE/RL writes that, according to an Armenian government statement, on that occasion the parties made "substantial progress" on the functioning of the railway leading to Nakhchivan.

What does article 9 of the 10 November Trilateral Declaration say?

The 10 November Trilateral Declaration brought the Second Karabakh War of 2020 to an end, and was signed by the presidents of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Article 9 of the Trilateral Declaration, which concerns the restoration of regional transport links, reads:

"All economic and transport links in the region shall be restored. The Republic of Armenia guarantees the safety of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to organize an unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Control over transport shall be exercised by the bodies of the Border Guard Service of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia.

"By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan shall be ensured."

source: with agencies
photo: Al Jazeera