Tensions over the disputed region are rising, and the effectiveness of the Russian peacekeeping mission is a serious concern
The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have met for talks in Brussels amid renewed tension on the border between the two countries, which have been fighting for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave for around 30 years.
The discussion between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was mediated by European Council President Charles Michel, who also held a bilateral meeting with Pashinian on Saturday night and with Aliyev on Sunday morning.
The talks come in the wake of fresh clashes on the border between the two Caucasus countries. On Thursday, an Azerbaijani soldier was killed and four Armenian soldiers were wounded in other clashes, and on Friday, Yerevan announced that an Armenian soldier had been killed and two others wounded by Azerbaijani forces.
Pashinian has accused Azerbaijan of trying to “undermine the talks” planned in Brussels, saying there was “very little” chance of reaching a peace deal with Aliyev at the meeting.
In early May, Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations met for intensive four-day talks sponsored by the United States. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was pleased with “tangible progress” at the talks in Washington and said a peace deal was “in sight”.
Another meeting between Pashinian and Aliyev is already scheduled to take place in Moldova on June 1 on the sidelines of the second summit of the European Political Community. Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will all be involved.
The endless battle
The two Caucasus countries fought two wars in the early 1990s and 2020 for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region with a majority Armenian population that split from Azerbaijan more than three decades ago.
After the brief war that saw Azerbaijan regain territory in the separatist region in the fall of 2020, Baku and Yerevan reached a ceasefire promoted by Russia. Since then, Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenia has complained for months about their ineffectiveness.
The Russian government has been irritated by Western attempts to negotiate a new peace deal, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisting there is “no alternative” to the ceasefire deal brokered by the Kremlin in 2020.
Tensions flared again recently when Baku announced on April 23 that it had set up a first road check at the entrance to the Latchine Corridor, the only road connecting Armenia to the separatist enclave, which is already subject to a blockade that has caused shortages and power outages.
Washington urged the two leaders on Thursday to “agree to move their troops away from the border”.