The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, sworn enemies, have taken a small step towards easing tensions. The two countries agreed, during a meeting in Brussels on Sunday, to “advance discussions” on a peace treaty concerning Nagorny Karabakh, announced the President of the European Council. A war broke out in the region in 2020.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held a “frank and productive” EU-mediated discussion in Brussels, the European Council president said on Sunday. “The leaders agreed to advance discussions on the future peace treaty governing interstate relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Charles Michel said in a statement.
The talks will begin in “the coming weeks”, he said, adding that he had stressed to the two leaders the importance of taking into account “the rights and security of the Armenian population of Karabakh”. There will also be a “meeting of border commissions” in the coming days, which will address the issues of border demarcation and “the best way to ensure a stable situation”.
Nagorny Karabakh, which the two countries have been fighting over for thirty years, was the stake in 2020 of a six-week war which left more than 6,500 dead before a ceasefire negotiated by Russia.
A national humiliation
As part of this agreement, Armenia ceded whole swaths of territory it had controlled since a first victorious war in the early 1990s and a Russian peacekeeping force of 2,000 men is deployed in Nagorny Karabakh.
The ceasefire agreement, seen in Armenia as a national humiliation, sparked weeks of anti-government protests, leading Nikol Pashinyan to call early parliamentary elections that were won in September by his Civil Contract party. But demonstrations bringing together thousands of people at the call of the opposition continued in May to demand his resignation.
About 30,000 dead
These are the largest anti-government protests since the September 2021 elections. Another EU-organized meeting between the two countries is scheduled for July or August, detailed the President of the European Council.
Nagorny Karabakh’s Armenian separatists split from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The resulting conflict left around 30,000 people dead.