Russia's President Vladimir Putin has today (7 October) separately spoken on the phone to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, both of whom wished him a happy birthday.
With the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, Putin reportedly emphasised the great importance Russia attaches to close co-operation with Armenia, its strategic ally; whilst Pashinyan stressed that Armenia and the Armenian people highly appreciate the efforts of Russian president, his role in maintaining peace and stability in the region, and the attention he pays to Armenia. The leaders reportedly discussed Russia-Armenia bilateral relations, whilst touching on the situation and developments in the region.
In the phone call between Putin and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, the leaders reportedly emphasised the successful development of Azerbaijan-Russia friendly relations in various fields, expressing confidence that their co-operation would continue to strengthen, and exchanged views on the prospects for their countries' relations. They also discussed the situation and developments in the region.
Given the continued sharp rhetoric exchanged between Baku and Yerevan, one may be forgiven for not thinking that Armenia and Azerbaijan may be heading for peaceful reconciliation soon. The ceasefire in place since 10 November 2020 has been an uneasy one, marred by a number of incidents. The different readings of the Armenia-Azerbaijan-Russia trilateral declaration have delayed progress in the implementation of some of its provisions. A formal peace process has yet to start (or restart depending on how you look at it). But something is stirring. Recent statements by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, indicate that both sides consider it is now time to negotiate. There are still some issues regarding the modalities, and under whose auspices such talks can happen, but once the two men can get together, it is hoped they can develop their own dynamic.
The foreign minister (FM) of Armenia, Ararat Mirzoyan, and a spokesperson for the Azerbaijani ministry of foreign affairs, Leyla Abdullayeva, have both recently hinted at a possible meeting between the two FMs.
Speaking at a Q&A session in the Parliament, ArmenPress reports Mirzoyan as supporting the idea of another meeting under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk group. “Of course, the resumption of these format discussions, negotiation process is welcome and is definitely in the interests of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. We state once again that the issue is not solved”.
He reportedly added that an agreement had already been made between the two FMs to meet at some point. “I positively assess the fact that there was a perception despite the existence of tension and many unresolved issues, we agreed to meet again and first of all discuss the humanitarian issues. Of course, the talk firstly concerns the issue relating to the prisoners of war and civilians who are illegal held in Azerbaijan, the issue of the existence of captives waiting for confirmation, the access of humanitarian missions, international organizations in Nagorno Karabakh, and many other issues. I think that the positive solution of these issues would first of all be an evidence of a constructive position by Azerbaijan and would create an environment where we can discuss the most important issues in the course of time”.
Abdullayeva, the chief of the press service for the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did not confirm that an agreement had already been reached for the next meeting, but did note that Baku would not rule out such a possibility.
“As you know, the Azerbaijani side has always been open to dialogue, and our country prefers to resolve any differences through negotiations. We have repeatedly stated our readiness to negotiate with the Armenian side in the post-conflict period. We consider it useful to discuss issues related to the normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations in the post-conflict period. Earlier, the foreign ministers of the two countries met in New York. We do not rule out such a meeting in the future.”
Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov, met in New York last month during the UN General Assembly for talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk group co-chairs. However, another meeting between the two FMs would be significant in that it would constitute only the second time the two have met face to face since the end of the 44-day war and would represent a further step in what appears to be an increasing willingness from both sides to attempt a normalisation of relations.