26.Aug .2022 20:00

Azerbaijan, Armenia leaders to hold EU-mediated talks in Brussels

Azerbaijan, Armenia leaders to hold EU-mediated talks in Brussels
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The leaders of ex-Soviet rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to meet in Brussels next Wednesday for EU-mediated talks, Armenia's government announced.

The meeting comes after a recent outbreak of fighting over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh that left at least three dead.

"Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev will meet in Brussels on Aug. 31," the press service of the Armenian government told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

European Council chief Charles Michel will be present at the meeting.

Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military illegally occupied Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

Arch enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over Azerbaijan's mostly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Six weeks of fighting in the autumn of 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement.

During the 44-day conflict, in which Turkey was a key backer of Azerbaijan, Baku liberated several cities and around 300 settlements and villages that had been occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

Armenia was forced to cede swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce, but tensions persist despite the cease-fire agreement.

In January 2021, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It also included the establishment of a trilateral working group in Karabakh.

In early August, new tensions flared as Azerbaijan said it had lost a soldier and the Armenian forces said two of its troops had been killed and more than a dozen injured.

While the ongoing diplomatic negotiations for permanent peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the ongoing normalization process between Türkiye and Armenia have recently harbored a positive atmosphere in the region, they also heralded steps for comprehensive regional cooperation. However, as a result of the recent increase in tension in the Karabakh region, Armenia-Azerbaijan relations have turned hostile again. Türkiye has adopted a discursive position, siding with Azerbaijan and against Armenia.

Most recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday discussed the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia's prime minister, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In a phone call, Putin and Pashinyan reaffirmed the importance of consistently implementing trilateral agreements signed in 2020 and 2021 between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia, said the statement.

The stabilizing role of a Russian peacekeeping contingent in the region, deployed as part of the accords, was noted during the call, it added.

Putin and Pashinyan also exchanged views on further developing ties between Moscow and Yerevan, Daily Sabah reports.