President Ilham Aliyev welcomed Tbilisi’s potential role in brokering normalization between Azerbaijan and Armenia, during his visit to Georgia last week.
In a joint press briefing with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Saturday, President Aliyev said that Georgia’s relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia would allow it to join the negotiations as a very suitable mediator in a trilateral format.
“Several countries and also some international organizations are trying to support the normalization process between Armenia and Azerbaijan today. We welcome that. If it is not lop-sided and biased, of course, we welcome any mediation and assistance,” President Aliyev said in Tbilisi on Saturday.
“However, in my opinion, taking into account both the historical relations and the geographical factor, the most correct option in this field would certainly be Georgia. I think that we should expect the same approach from Armenia, as a country that is ready for this, and if Armenia agrees, the heads of our relevant authorities can immediately come to Georgia for both bilateral and trilateral meetings.”
President Aliyev said restoring sovereignty over Azerbaijan’s entire territory opened up bigger chances for the country to press ahead with the normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan.
He said a possible Azerbaijan-Armenia peace treaty would completely redesign the political situation in the South Caucasus, paving the way for trilateral cooperation in various fields, including transport, energy security, trade, mutual investment, and more.
Prime Minister Garibashvili reaffirmed Georgia’s readiness to contribute to the normalization between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“Georgia has always held a neutral, unbiased position in this process and we stand ready to make our humble contribution through mediation or facilitation – establishment of a friendly format in general. Tbilisi is always ready to take part in this process. Our future should be peaceful, stable and we – all three countries of the South Caucasus – should be able to decide on our own about the regional affairs and our development ahead,” he said.
Earlier in January, PM Garibashvili said Azerbaijan’s proposals to hold trilateral meetings in Georgia were in the interests of Tbilisi, which supports the idea of South Caucasus’ belonging to three countries [Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia] that can team up to transform it into the region of “opportunities for peace and prosperity”.
In June 2021, the prime minister of Georgia brokered the release of fifteen Armenian servicemen who were detained in Azerbaijani territory after a ceasefire agreement was signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia in November 2020. Under the deal, Yerevan gave Baku a small portion of the maps of minefields in the liberated Azerbaijani lands.
Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks
Shortly after the 2020 war, the Azerbaijani authorities voiced readiness and determination to launch negotiations with Armenia that would ultimately bring the long-awaited peace to the region. In March 2022, Baku submitted five basic principles to Yerevan, including mutual recognition of territorial integrity and border delimitation activities.
Since the end of the war, there have been a series of high-level meetings between Azerbaijan and Armenia mediated by Russian, European, and American officials.
However, due to Armenia’s territorial claims against Azerbaijan, despite its recognition of the country’s territorial integrity, the peace talks did not lead to any resolutions. The presence of the illegal separatist regime in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and Yerevan’s financial and military support to it blocked the attempts for a breakthrough.
The armed provocations of the Armenian army formations stationed in the Karabakh region, dubbed the “defense forces” of the separatists, against Azerbaijan led to one-day counter-terrorism measures by Baku from September 19-20. The anti-terror operation disabled almost the entire military infrastructure of the separatist regime.
On September 20, the separatists agreed to full disarmament and withdrawal. On September 28, the so-called leadership of the Armenian separatist regime in the Karabakh region announced its self-dissolution.
Meanwhile, shortly after the anti-terror measures, Azerbaijani authorities hosted the representatives of Karabakh’s Armenian residents to discuss their reintegration. However, a voluntary exodus of ethnic Armenians ensued after the collapse of the illegal separatist regime. Despite Baku’s calls to stay and reintegrate, as well as pledges to guarantee all fundamental rights, a large portion of the Armenian residents voluntarily left for Armenia.
Currently, employees from the State Migration Service and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population of Azerbaijan are operating in the Karabakh region to help the ethnic Armenians of the region apply for Azerbaijani citizenship. Baku also launched an online reintegration portal to expedite the process.