© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union summit in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2023. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Azerbaijan said on Saturday that Russia and Armenia were not respecting the ceasefire agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, hours after the European Union urged the Azerbaijan and Armenia to refrain from “violence and harsh rhetoric”.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, a small mountainous enclave that is part of Azerbaijan but populated by around 120,000 ethnic Armenians.
After heavy fighting and a Russian-brokered ceasefire, Azerbaijan in 2020 recaptured areas controlled by ethnic Armenians in and around the mountain enclave.
“Armenia has not complied with many provisions of the declaration, and Russia has not ensured the full implementation of the declaration within the framework of its obligations,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement. press release published on its website.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have since been discussing a peace deal, in which Russia also strives to retain a leading role and in which the two countries would agree on borders, settle disputes over enclave and unfreeze relations.
EU Council President Charles Michel hosted Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for talks in Brussels aimed at drawing a line under more than three decades of hostilities.
Armenia says the proposed peace treaty should grant them special rights and guarantee their safety. Azberbaijani’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov rejected the request in an interview with Reuters in June, saying it was unnecessary and amounted to interference in Azerbaijan’s affairs.
“Real progress depends on the next steps to be taken in the near future. As a priority, violence and harsh rhetoric must stop in order to create an environment conducive to peace and normalization talks,” Michel said.
He told reporters, “The people on the ground need reassurance, first and foremost about their rights and safety.”
Russia said on Saturday it was ready to hold a three-way meeting with Armenia and Azerbaijan at the level of foreign ministers. This could be followed by a summit in Moscow to sign a peace treaty, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
He said an integral part of this pact should be “reliable and clear guarantees of the rights and security of Karabakh Armenians” and the implementation of previous agreements between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Azerbaijan said Moscow’s statement “causes disappointment and misunderstanding” and contradicts Russia’s statements to support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
Michel said he also expressed the EU’s encouragement for Azerbaijan to speak directly to the Karabakh Armenians in order to develop trust between the parties.
It is unclear how Aliyev reacted, as he and Pashinyan left without informing reporters. The de facto leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh claims to be independent but is not recognized by any country.
Besides the EU, the United States has also pushed the parties to reach a peace agreement. Russia, the traditional conduit of power in the region, has been distracted by the war in Ukraine and risks seeing its influence diminished.