Direct talks in Tbilisi between Armenia and Azerbaijan are a step forward

In another positive step in the process of normalising relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan the foreign ministers of the two countries, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov, met in Tbilisi on Saturday, 16 July. 

Although the meeting took place with the encouragement and support of the Government of Georgia the meeting between the two Ministers, followed immediately after with another session involving their respective delegations, took place without third party facilitation emphasising that direct discussions between the two countries is now ongoing. The significance was not lost on international partners of the two countries. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken tweeted:

.@bayramov_jeyhun and @AraratMirzoyan took a positive step today, meeting in Tbilisi. Direct dialogue is the surest path to resolving Azerbaijani and Armenian differences.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 16, 2022

The readout of the meeting from the two sides puts somewhat different emphasis on the content of the discussions. According to the Armenian readout, during the meeting, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov discussed a wide range of issues related to the regulation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The parties discussed the process of fulfilment of previously undertaken obligations in this regard and exchanged ideas on possible further steps.

"Minister Mirzoyan reaffirmed the point of view of the Armenian side that the political settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is important on the way to achieving stable and lasting peace in the region, and in this context emphasized the importance of using the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship institution and experience in accordance with its international mandate. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia emphasized the importance of addressing humanitarian issues, including the release and repatriation of Armenian prisoners of war and clarifying the fate of missing persons", the readout from the Armenian foreign ministry said.

On its part, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry said that during the meeting the ministers touched on a number of issues related to the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In this regard, both parties discussed the implementation of their obligations and exchanged views on possible future steps.

 "Minister Jeyhun Bayramov noted that all efforts should be aimed at achieving progress in the regulation of interstate relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia based on the post-conflict realities that arose after the resolution of the armed conflict between the two states. In this context, the need to implement all the provisions of the Tripartite Statements signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, especially the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, was emphasized."

 Touching on humanitarian issues, Minister Jeyhun Bayramov drew attention to the importance of clarifying the fate of nearly 4,000 missing Azerbaijanis.

 The ministers emphasized that they attach importance to the continuation of direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

 Both ministers expressed their gratitude to the Georgian side for organizing the meeting in Georgia. The willingness of the parties to continue contacts has been recorded" political editor said in a comment that Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the process of discovering how best to conduct relations between them. "A few years ago, such a meeting between the two foreign ministers without third party mediation, which almost always involved Russia, was unthinkable. The meeting in Tbilisi enabled the heads of the two foreign ministries to establish a working relationship which is going to be necessary as progress is made in the wider context of normalising relations. The channel of the foreign ministers may not be the most crucial one at the moment, but it is essential one, and the commitment of the two ministers to pursue their dialogue is a positive step. The meeting can also bee seen as a success for Georgian diplomacy which has been seeking to play a role in the current regional context. Georgia has limited itself to providing the right conditions of the meeting, and has not, in so far as can be ascertained, interfered in the actual negotiations. This is also positive since it has allowed the sides to  develop their own momentum. But the good news for Georgia is that the meeting also opens the way for future trilateral regional discussions between the three countries, something which is much needed and long overdue."

photo: Armenian foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, met the Azerbaijani foreign minister Jeyhum Bayramov in Tbilisi on 16 July 2022