Putin hosts leaders of rivals Armenia, Azerbaijan, for talks

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hosted leaders of regional rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks marking the first anniversary of a Moscow-broker peace deal that ended fighting in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

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In the southern city of Sochi, Putin held a bilateral meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Then the Russian President met Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan together, and after that he said that he would have a separate bilateral meeting with Pashinyan.

Initiating the meeting, Putin said a lot has been done over the past year, but “not all issues have been resolved yet.” He pointed to the repeated skirmishes on the border between the two countries, which resulted in many casualties.

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Putin stressed that the goal of the one-year ceasefire is “to create conditions for the revival of the region, so that people can feel safe there and carry out normal economic activities … develop the economy.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a decades-old dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war ended in 1994.

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The Azerbaijani army defeated the Armenian army in the fall of 2020 in 44 days of fierce fighting, which ended with the Russo-Dalal peace agreement, in which Azerbaijan gained control of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh and all areas controlled by Armenian forces. retrieved. outside the separatist zone

Russia has deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to oversee the peace deal.

The peace agreement was celebrated as a victory in Azerbaijan but was seen as a betrayal by the opposition in Armenia. The Pashinians defended it as the only way to prevent the Armenian army from losing control over the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The 2020 deal envisages a transport corridor through Armenia that would connect Azerbaijan to its territory of the Nakhchivan region – a plan angered by the Armenian opposition, which also fears that the planned demarcation of the border would compromise Armenian interests. can be done.

Putin said on Friday that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia had “achieved a lot” in the year that they signed the peace deal. He said there had been no large-scale fighting, some 53,000 refugees had returned to their homes and that Russian peacekeepers were ensuring the safety of Nagorno-Karabakh residents.

In their inaugural speech, both Aliyev and Pashinyan said that they were ready to begin work on the demarcation and demarcation of the border.

Pashinyan, however, said the situation on the border and in Nagorno-Karabakh “is not as stable as one would like” and added that “dozens of people on both sides” have been killed in clashes over the past year. He called the situation at the border a “crisis”.

“Our assessment is that Azerbaijani forces have infiltrated the sovereign territory of Armenia,” he said.

The Armenian prime minister also said that the issue of prisoners of war, hostages and other prisoners held remains unresolved.

In return, Aliyev said that the Azerbaijani authorities have publicly offered to begin work on an appropriate peace treaty with Armenia “to end the conflict, recognize each other’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and protect the neighbors in the future.” To live as, (or) learn to live as neighbors again.”

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Nagorno-Karabakh

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