Toivo Klaar, the European Union’s Special Representative (EUSR) for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, has been in Armenia for the last three days to improve his understanding of the situation on the country’s eastern border and for meetings in Yerevan. The EUSR travelled to Armenia on Tuesday (13 April) following a visit to Georgia for meetings in Tbilisi and Sukhumi.
On Thursday, (15 April) the EUSR and the Head of EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin, met with the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, in Yerevan. The Prime Minister deemed the EU-Armenian partnership as quite effective, expressing appreciated for the EU’s involvement in projects implemented in Armenia.
On specific issues, the Armenian leader spotlighted the Armenian soldiers that remained in Azerbaijani detention, emphasising the humanitarian concerns and expressing a need for the support of international partners, including the EU, to end the situation. Pashinyan raised concerns surrounding the opening of a so-called Trophy Park in Baku, which he highlighted as evidence of a policy of Armenophobia by Azerbaijani officials. The Prime Minister stressed that the situation provided grounds for applying the principle of “remedial secession” to Nagorno-Karabakh.
The EUSR noted the EU’s eagerness to see regional peace reinstated in the South Caucasus, expressing deep concern over the challenges involved in setting up an appropriate confidence-building atmosphere. Klaar spoke to the Prime Minister about his visits to the border regions in previous days, stressing the importance for both sides to protect the rights of border populations.
The Prime Minister noted that foreigners had been unable to access Nagorno-Karabakh, which impedes the implementation of humanitarian activities by international organisations. Pashinyan and Klaar discussed the settlement process in the region, with Pashinyan noting that the status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unsettled, adding that Armenia abides by the position that the talks should continue in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing format. Klaar and Pashinyan also discussed the prospects of opening up regional transport corridors.
Whilst in Yerevan, Klaar also met with the Armenian foreign minister, Ara Ayvazyan. They discussed the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, with Ayvazyan emphasising the need for direct international involvement, and again highlighted the plight of Armenians remaining in Azerbaijani detention. They agreed on the importance of the preservation of cultural heritage sites and of both sides protecting the rights of border populations.
This morning, leaving Armenia, the EUSR in a tweet referred to two reservoirs as having the potential for co-operation between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He noted that agreement would have to be made on the necessary repairs to the reservoirs’ infrastructure, which would require increased confidence between the sides.
The Joghaz and its sister reservoir, the Abbasbayli, are good candidates for cooperation to benefit the local populations in Armenia and Azerbaijan if agreement can be found to repair and maintain dams, canals and machinery. Improved confidence between sides essential for this. pic.twitter.com/qEEhRlf10g— Toivo Klaar (@ToivoKlaar) April 16, 2021
Finishing his visit, Klaar confirmed on twitter that he had gained a better understanding of the situation.