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Baku Calls on Yerevan to Revise Its Approach to Peace Process

By Ilham Karimli March 2, 2023

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Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during a press conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, February 28, 2023 / Courtesy

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said that Armenia’s non-constructive stance impeded the progress in the peace process.

During a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Baku on Tuesday, Bayramov said the sooner Armenia revises its approach the quicker the peace process will be achieved.

The Azerbaijani minister said the inconsistent approaches by Yerevan, including the speculations over the events on the Lachin road, testify to its intention to distract international opinion and stir the regional situation.

"Azerbaijan is in constant contact with the Russian peacekeeping contingent and the International Red Cross Society. We do not see an alternative to peace," Bayramov said, adding attempts to prevent constructive dialogue are being observed in Armenia, which tries to put the responsibility on Russia and Azerbaijan for the current situation on the Lachin road.

There is an ongoing protest by the Azerbaijani eco-activists, civil society members, and volunteers on the Lachin road, which connects Armenia with the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The protestors demand an immediate end to the illegal exploitation of the mineral resources in the Karabakh region and the misuse of the road.

The illegal mineral extraction in the Karabakh region and the transfer of the ores through the Lachin road to Armenia prompted a serious backlash from the Azerbaijani authorities who demanded more effective control of the Lachin road by the Russian peacekeepers. Baku-based Caliber.Az news agency has reported that eight Kamaz trucks made their way from the Khankendi city of Azerbaijan to Armenia between November 10 and November 14, 2022. Moreover, on November 16-18, the same vehicles were seen along the Lachin road from Armenia to Khankendi.

According to operational data, raw materials extracted from the gold mines near the village of Gulyatagh of the former Aghdara (present-day Tartar) region of Azerbaijan, located in the zone temporary monitored by Russian peacekeepers, was transported on these Kamaz trucks.

Since December 3, 2022, a group of experts from Azerbaijan’s Economy Ministry and Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry, and the State Property Service under the Ministry of Economy and AzerGold Company, held negotiations with the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent on the illegal exploitation of mineral deposits, as well as on environmental and other secondary consequences in the Azerbaijani territories under its temporary monitoring. As a result of consecutive meetings on December 3 and 4, the two sides agreed to ecological monitoring by the Azerbaijani experts at the Gizilbulag gold and Demirli copper-molybdenum deposits.

On December 5, 2022, the Commander of the Russian peacekeepers, Andrei Volkov, said it was agreed with Azerbaijan to install mini customs checkpoint along the Lachin road. However, Volkov later denied his remarks.

On December 10, the visit of the representatives of Azerbaijan to the deposits was derailed in the wake of illegal intervention by ethnic Armenians living in certain parts of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region. Back then, the Russian peacekeepers did not take preventive measures to facilitate the previously agreed visit of the Azerbaijani experts. This led civil society members and volunteers to protest along the Lachin-Khankendi road on December 12.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev revived the issue of installing checkpoint during a trilateral meeting with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Munich, Germany, on February 18.

He also said that it would help facilitate the delimitation of the borders between the two countries, as well as reopening transport channels in the region.

However, the proposal by President Aliyev on installing checkpoints on the Lachin road, namely at the intersection of the Armenian and Azerbaijani borders, was rejected by the Armenian authorities.

Minister Bayramov said a positive response by Armenia to this proposal would ensure transparency and help finalize the long-debated issue between Baku and Yerevan.

“If the Armenian side is really interested in eliminating the tension, then we can do it (install checkpoints). We don't think it's a good idea to reject it," he said during a press briefing with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Armenia’s Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan said this week that Baku and Yerevan have reached a consensus on a number of points mentioned in the peace treaty. However, he did not disclose the agreement in detail, which he claimed was based on international law.