Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume peace talks in Brussels

EU mediation comes after ‘tangible progress’ in Washington between the two sides
The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia will resume peace talks in Brussels this
weekend, according to officials, as western allies are stepping up mediation
efforts between the conflict-wracked neighbours following a recent uptick in
fighting over their disputed border.
European Council president Charles Michel will host a meeting on Sunday
between Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s prime minister
Nikol Pashinyan, three officials with knowledge of the preparations told the
Financial Times.

It will be the first time the two leaders have met in person since talks in Munich
in February and comes after the two countries’ foreign ministers held extensive
discussions in Washington last week. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said
those talks “made tangible progress on a durable peace agreement” and that he
believed “an agreement [is] within sight, within reach”.

Hundreds of troops have been killed in sporadic clashes since a full-scale war
in 2020 ended in an unstable ceasefire. Diplomatic efforts led by the EU and US
on one side, and Russia on the other, have since then sought to broker a
longstanding peace deal without success.

The two former Soviet republics have fought for control of the territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh since the collapse of the USSR. The majority-Armenian
region was previously controlled by Armenia before being largely captured by
Azerbaijan in 2020.

The Brussels meeting is an “important sign of progress”, one of the three
officials said on condition of anonymity as it is not yet public, adding that the
EU and US efforts were “mutually reinforcing” and “complementary two-track

There are also plans for the three leaders to hold another meeting on June 1
with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and French president Emmanuel Macron
on the sidelines of the European Political Community summit in Moldova, two
of the officials said.

Spokespeople for Michel and Aliyev declined to comment. A spokesperson for
Pashinyan did not respond to a request for comment.

“Azerbaijan feels quite comfortable with the Charles Michel mission because
[the] EU doesn’t have a hidden agenda,” said Hikmet Hajiyev, Aliyev’s foreign
policy adviser. He added that the EU process had developed “key concepts” for
the negotiations and their structure.

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The talks are likely to focus on Azerbaijan’s recent decision to install a
checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, the only road access from Armenia to
Nagorno-Karabakh. They will also feature discussions on border demarcation,
prisoner exchanges and efforts to remove thousands of mines that litter the

Yerevan says Baku is using the checkpoint to strangle critical supplies of food
and medicine to Nagorno-Karabakh, while Baku says it is necessary to prevent
weapons being smuggled into the territory.

“Regulation of its own territory is normal for every country,” said Hajiyev. “The
road is open, but the road is closed for illicit trafficking.”
The EU-led effort is also a test of its clout in its wider neighbourhood and a
challenge to Moscow’s historic influence. Russia has about 2,000 troops
stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh as peacekeepers after brokering the 2020

Hajiyev said Baku was “flexible” about meeting in Moscow, Washington or
Brussels, noting that the process should be more “inclusive” in order to yield

“Russia can effectively contribute to the peace-building process in the region,”
said Hajiyev. “But it’s also true that Russia is very much preoccupied with the
war in Ukraine.

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