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Armenian PM Confirms Participation In Nagorno-Karabakh Talks With Azerbaijan

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BM.GE
14.07.23 13:25
210
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he hopes progress will be made on a peace treaty when he meets with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Brussels on July 15, with the president of the Council of the European Union, Charles Michel, in attendance.

"I have confirmed my participation in the meeting, I hope to make progress in the peace treaty negotiations," Pashinian said at a government session on July 13.

But he reiterated that a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan "is not yet ready for signing."

The two countries are trying to make progress toward a peace settlement of their long-running dispute over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The simmering conflict led to a six-week war in 2020 in which nearly 7,000 soldiers were killed on both sides.

Pashinian on July 13 also denounced a blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only land link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, saying it contradicts a ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in February ordered Azerbaijan to ensure free movement along the road.

"As far as the illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor and the deepening humanitarian crisis are concerned, the binding ruling of the ICJ creates a possibility for a greater international consolidation to prevent Azerbaijan's policy of ethnic cleansing in Karabakh," Pashinian said.

He also urged international unity against the blockade of the Armenian-populated region.

Azerbaijan's State Border Service (SBS) said on July 11 that traffic through a checkpoint had been suspended pending an investigation after "various types of contraband" had been discovered in the Red Cross vehicles coming from Armenia. Articles being transported included mobile phones, spare parts for phones, cigarettes, and gasoline, it claimed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) denied the allegations in a statement saying none of the vehicles under its control was involved in smuggling. But it said without its knowledge four hired drivers had tried to transport some commercial goods in their own vehicles, which were displaying the ICRC emblem. The individuals were not ICRC staff members and they were fired, the ICRC said.

The move sparked concerns over a humanitarian crisis in the restive enclave, which Armenia has said is experiencing food shortages.

An EU official said the trilateral meeting scheduled for July 15 between Pashinian, Aliyev, and Michel -- the sixth in nearly two years -- would cover humanitarian issues, border delimitation, the peace treaty, the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians, and connectivity.

"We consider the leaders-level engagement essential to promote peaceful settlement and to prevent escalation," AFP quoted the official as saying. The official spoke in Brussels on condition of anonymity.

In his comments during the government session, Pashinian did not mention tensions on the border, where sporadic fighting and loss of life have persisted despite a cease-fire brokered by Russia to end the six-week war in 2020 and the presence of Russian troops.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said on July 13 that Azerbaijani units fired on Armenian positions in the Upper Shorzha sector. Baku has not responded to the report.

The two sides have previously blamed each other for violating the cease-fire. The fighting in 2020 resulted in Armenia and ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh losing control over parts of the region and seven adjacent districts, RFE/RL reports.