Lavrov Says Russia “Committed” to Armenian Security

Gulnar Abbasova Feature 8 May 2021
Lavrov Says Russia “Committed” to Armenian Security

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow is committed to guaranteeing the country's security.

"We are committed to ensuring the security of our ally, the Republic of Armenia. This was discussed in your contacts with President Putin and in the contacts that are regularly and intensively conducted by our defence departments. There can be no doubt about this," Lavrov told acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during talks in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on 6 May.

For his turn, Pashinyan said that the peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh should resume to "reach a final solution to the conflict" on the basis of the principles proposed by the international mediators.

"I want to assure you that Armenia will continue to do everything to implement the agreements under the 9 November 2020 and 11 January 2021 trilateral statements. Besides, we are ready to make maximum efforts to ensure constructive dialogue in trilateral format," he said. 

Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan of worsening the situation, saying "actions by Baku, which is manipulating the issue of the release of the POWs, is stirring up anti-Armenia bacchanalia, is voicing territorial claims against Armenia and has now started destroying Armenian cultural and religious heritage, are aimed at escalating the situation in the region and wrecking the agreements".

"The presence of the Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh is a firm guarantee for the Nagorno-Karabakh security," Pashinyan said. 

Speaking at a joint news conference with acting Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan in Yerevan on the same day, which was broadcast live on the Russian state rolling news channel Rossiya 24, Lavrov said that the ongoing peace process in and around the disputed Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh should not be "politicised".

Answering a question about the 13 April statement by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh, Lavrov said: "The peace process that was started by way of reaching an agreement to stop the war and move to a peacekeeping operation, move to the unblocking of all economic links and all transport communications in the region is already being implemented, practically, for six months now. Therefore, [to say that there is a need] to move to a peace process is sort of distorting the reality." 

"We have no doubt whatsoever that when people begin to feel benefits of peaceful life, [benefits of] lifting of all restrictions, sanctions and manifestations of blockade, they will change their attitude to issues that some of our colleagues are now trying to accentuate and move to the forefront. There is no need to politicise the process. It is under way, in a fairly difficult manner, because issues connected with routes of connecting this region are being resolved, as well as issues connected with ensuring the so-called connectedness of regional relations, issues of the contact line, delimitation and demarcation of borders” the Russian foreign minister added.

In a reply to a question about Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's statement on the possibility of creating the "Zangezur corridor", Lavrov also said that there can be no "alternative" to the November 2020 and January 2021 agreements signed by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan that brought to an end the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

Aliyev's statement referred to a transport corridor that is to pass through Armenia's southern Syunik Region and link mainland Azerbaijan to its Nakhchivan exclave and further on to Turkey. The opening of the corridor is part of the peace deal signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia with Moscow's mediation.

"As for the trilateral interaction at the level of deputy prime ministers, this mechanism was created by the decision of the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia following their meeting in Moscow on 11 January. This mechanism provides for agreements that can be exclusively voluntary, on a mutually beneficial basis and in no way imply anything other than diplomatic agreement and decisions that will allow economic links to be completely unblocked. Any issues that may be raised contrary to the agreements of the three leaders cannot be perceived as an alternative to what was agreed," Lavrov said.

In turn, Ayvazyan said that a political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is yet to be negotiated, adding that a political solution should include an agreement on Karabakh's status.

"Only through peaceful negotiations it is possible to achieve a comprehensive political solution which will take into account the rights of everyone and will bring peace and stability to the South Caucasus," Mediamax news agency quoted Ayvazyan as saying on 6 May.

"It is important to create conditions for resuming the peace process under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs," News.am quoted Ayvazyan as saying at a meeting with Sergei Lavrov. 

Lavrov and Ara Ayvazyan also signed an intergovernmental memorandum on issues of ensuring biological security. "Its implementation will make a significant contribution to the further development of cooperation in this sensitive and currently very relevant area, and help strengthen our common biological security space," Lavrov told a joint news conference in Yerevan on 6 May following talks between the two ministers, according to TASS. 

He said that Moscow and Yerevan will promote this "topical theme within the framework of multilateral structures" including the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and CIS.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and has also sent peacekeeping troops to Nagorno-Karabakh after a Moscow-brokered deal in November 2020 ended a six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region. Armenian forces suffered a heavy defeat in the fighting and Yerevan was forced to cede control of swathes of territory in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region to Azerbaijan.

Last month, Pashinyan resigned as prime minister after a dispute with the army over who was to blame for the outcome of the war. He will carry on in an acting capacity until new parliamentary elections in June. 

Azerbaijan’s lands have been mined heavily during their nearly 30-year-long occupation by Armenia since the early 1990s. Armenia kicked off full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. The bloody war until a ceasefire in 1994 saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories – the Nagorno-Karabakh (Daghlig Garabagh) region and seven surrounding districts. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.

As part of 44-day-long counter-attack operations that took place last year, Azerbaijani forces managed to liberate over 300 occupied settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha. The war ended in a tripartite ceasefire statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10. Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan as part of the agreement.