The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Russia, Jeyhun Bayramov and Sergei Lavrov, met yesterday (11 May) in Baku, during an official visit by the latter to the Azerbaijani capital. In a joint press conference, Lavrov specifically addressed two outstanding humanitarian issues of priority interest to Armenia and Azerbaijan following last year’s war – respectively, the return of detainees and the clearance of landmines.
Speaking after their meeting, Bayramov publicly welcomed his Russian counterpart, noting that the countries’ strategic relationship was developing in many directions, highlighting the development of co-operation in both multilateral and bilateral frameworks. Similar sentiments were expressed by Lavrov, who emphasised the “the steady character of [their countries’] strategic cooperation”.
Lavrov emphasised the importance of good communication between the two countries, referencing his meetings with both the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, and Bayramov, as well as the former’s telephone conversation with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Monday (10 May) – the fifth telephone conversation between the leaders this year, he noted. He expressed a hope that meetings would start to return to normal, face-to-face interaction and noted that the deputy prime ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russian – the co-chairs of the trilateral working group, tasked with implementing the provisions of the 44-day war’s ceasefire agreement – would meet in person later this month.
The diplomats congratulated each other on the anniversary of the joint victory over fascism during the Second World War.
They discussed co-operation over the pandemic and in multilateral settings, and raised the prospect of Russia’s observer status to the non-aligned movement. Lavrov thanked his counterpart for Azerbaijan’s support of Russia’s application to this role, saying that “the decision is almost ready and will be adopted at the earliest opportunity”.
The foreign ministers discussed the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the implementation of trilateral statements, economic and transport projects intended to normalise relations and ensure peace in the region, and obstacles to the implementation of trilateral statements. Lavrov thanked his counterpart for Azerbaijan's positive assessment of the Russian military contingent deployed as peacekeepers as part of the 10 November agreement that ended last year's war. He said that the OSCE remains relevent, primarily in sorting humanitarian issues and promoting confidence between the sides.
Addressing the return of detainees and help with landmine clearance – the two major issues of concern for Armenia and Azerbaijan following last year’s 44-day war – the Russian diplomat said:
“We want the humanitarian issues (live mines kill people) to be resolved as soon as possible and without any preconditions. I am referring to the need to return the POWs and bodies of the dead, find out what happened with the missing and settle problems related to the war’s material leftovers including mines.”
Lavrov noted that he had spoken about these issues to the Armenian leadership in his meeting to Yerevan on 5-6 May, and that “the first tentative steps” in resolving the problems were being implemented. He highlighted that he had now also spoken to the Azerbaijani leadership about them and hoped that the problems would be resolved soon.
During Lavrov’s visit, the foreign ministers signed a 'plan of action' for 2021-2022 between the ministries of foreign affairs of their countries. This was reported to include six roadmaps on trade, transport, infrastructure, science-intensive production, innovation, the digital economy, ways to enhance the efficiency of economic processes, and tourism.
Lavrov also spent yesterday morning laying wreaths at the Heydar Aliyev memorial and flowers at the grave of Zarifa Aliyeva – the former president and first lady of Azerbaijan and parents of the incumbent leader – as well as paying his respects at the Eternal Flame on the Martyrs' Alley and at the Memorial of Military Glory.