Moldova’s capital Chișinău on Thursday hosted an informal meeting between the European leaders and the President of Azerbaijan and Prime Minister of Armenia.
The five-sided meeting was attended by President Ilham Aliyev, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, President of the European Council Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, within the framework of the summit of the European Political Community.
President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan reaffirmed their commitments from the Prague talks on October 6, 2022, regarding border issues as determined by the Alma Ata Declaration of 1991, according to media reports. They also asserted mutual respect for the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“It was decided that a trilateral meeting (Aliyev-Michel-Pashinyan) will be held in Brussels on July 21, and the next meeting of (Azerbaijan and Armenia) foreign ministers in Washington will also take place in the same period of time. The core of the talks in Washington will be about a peace treaty,” Baku-based Caliber news service wrote, citing sources.
Meanwhile, PM Pashinyan, during his meeting with the Armenian diaspora in Moldova, said that the meeting of the foreign ministers in Washington will take place on June 12.
The upcoming talks in Washington will continue the previous negotiations between the ministers hosted by the US capital from May 1-4. The Brussels meeting on July 21 is expected to build on the outcomes of the preceding talks.
In the meantime, the US Department of State welcomed the progress in the negotiations between Baku and Yerevan on a peace treaty.
“We are encouraged by the peace agreement negotiations between the parties, including the leaders' meeting in Chisinau, and the ongoing progress. Open dialogue is essential for a full understanding of visions and progress. We will continue to promote dialogue and support the parties on the path to sustainable and decent peace,” a US State Department spokesman said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have long been at odds over the latter’s Karabakh region. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan that lasted until a ceasefire deal was reached in 1994. As a result, Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from these lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Armenia.
On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries spiralled after Armenia’s forces deployed in occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During counter-attack operations, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha. The war ended in a statement signed on November 10, 2020, under which Armenia returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Shortly after the war, the Azerbaijani authorities voiced readiness and determination to launch negotiations with Armenia that would ultimately bring the long-awaited peace to the region.
However, the process suffered major setbacks due to Armenia’s demands, including so-called “rights and security” of nearly 25,000 Armenians living in the Karabakh region, in addition to avoiding fulfilling its obligations under the Trilateral statement, such as the withdrawal of its armed formations from the Azerbaijani territories.
President Aliyev has repeatedly said that the demands of the Armenian side would not be considered since Armenians living in the Karabakh region are the citizens of Azerbaijan and issues regarding their rights is Azerbaijan’s internal matter.