Moscow viewed as vying for control over Azerbaijani-Armenian peace talks with EU
As a regional power, Russia retains a major impact on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and seems reluctant to abandon influencing post-Soviet conflicts, Azernews reports.
However, amid the ongoing Ukraine war, Russia's influence is dwindling down, and the European Union is viewed as an alternative platform for making peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia and succeeding in finding a final solution to the conflict.
After Azerbaijan's brilliant win in the 44-day second Karabakh war, Azerbaijan is resolutely advancing towards the demarcation of the borders and the signing of a peace deal with Armenia with the mediation of European Council President Charles Michel and the parties have already managed to hold three meetings though real success has not yet been registered.
Though Moscow was viewed as the only solid platform for Baku and Yerevan to hold meetings, now the European Union also acts as a mediator. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels in early April on the initiative of EU Council President Charles Michel. After the 4.5-hour negotiation, the leaders agreed on instructing their foreign ministers to work on a peace agreement, as well as establish a bilateral commission to delimit and secure the border by the end of April.
The active involvement of the EU in the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks has also been evaluated by the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as a “turning point in the process".
However, it seems that Russia attempts to take the EU’s initiative in the development of the peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and more often refers to the trilateral statements signed between Baku, Yerevan, and Moscow rather than the agreement achieved in Brussels.
In an interview with the TASS news agency, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko again highlighted Russia’s role in peace talks in line with the trilateral statements, signed by the parties following the 44-day war in 2020.
“We continue to work systematically at all levels to implement the November 9, 2020, January 11, and November 26, 2021, trilateral agreements at the highest level. The leaders are in constant contact. We do not rule out the organization of a face-to-face meeting should the need arise,” Rudenko said.
He went back to recall that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed a whole range of issues related to the normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan during his talks with colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia on the margins of the CIS Ministerial Council, on May 12, in Dushanbe.
Russia favors reinstating the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been tasked with resolving the conflict since 1992 and has not produced real progress.
Following the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Minsk Group practically seized functioning - Azerbaijan has openly refused to cooperate with this organization, and Yerevan's attempts to renew the talks in this context have failed. Although the three co-chairs verbally supported the format, it lost its significance after Russia's attack on Ukraine.
In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States and France of abandoning the format. Washington and Paris have denied the allegations, but the current level of relations between NATO and Russia is unlikely to make the Minsk Group more relevant.
It is good that the Minsk Group does not operate. The co-chairs, like the goose, cancer, and fish in the famous illustration, were steering the discussions in opposite ways. For the first time in 30 years, direct conversations are possible between the sides, Azerbaijani political analyst Shahin Rzayev said.
He also noted that the foreign ministers of the two countries had a telephone conversation for the first time in a long time, and Armenian Security Council Secretary Armenia Armen Grigoryan and Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev met in Brussels to discuss the future peace agreement.
President Ilham Aliyev also wants meetings without mediators, saying that Azerbaijan and Armenia should clarify the relations between themselves, and whoever wants to help let him do so.
Aliyev has repeatedly criticized the Minsk Group, saying: "Before the Second Karabakh War , the Minsk Group operated for 28 years. During these years, the co-chairs visited Azerbaijan and Armenia hundreds of times. The result is obvious - zero."
On the other hand, Russia is uninterested in the involvement of non-regional countries in the South Caucasus and promotes the regional “3+3” consultation platform (that includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, and Turkey) rather than third powers.
Rudenko described the regional consultative platform "3+3", established in December 2021, as a popular and promising mechanism for regional cooperation.
“We plan to actively use it to develop interaction between the South Caucasus countries and their neighbors. The logic of such cooperation presupposes collective consideration of issues of common interest, which do not exacerbate political differences and facilitate mutual trust. We are talking, above all, about the search for answers to regional challenges and the resolution of emerging problems by the regions themselves,” Rudenko said.
According to him, the involvement of all the regional countries creates favorable conditions for establishing a dialogue, for example, between Yerevan and Baku, Yerevan and Ankara through the implementation of mutually beneficial projects in the fields of trade, energy, industry, innovative technologies, and infrastructure modernization. Additional opportunities for cooperation between the South Caucasus countries and their neighbors are associated with the disclosure of the region's transit potential, and interaction in the fight against new challenges and threats.
“At this stage, we are preparing for the second meeting of the format. We expect to hold it by the end of the first half of the year. As for the unblocking of transport and economic ties, a trilateral working group co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia is working on this issue. A lot of work has been done in this area. We are working towards the adoption of a specific decision as soon as possible, which will allow us to start implementing specific projects in the region,” Rudenko added.
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