Armenia Ready to Resume Karabakh Talks with Azerbaijan via OSCE Mediation

Gulnar Abbasova Feature 16 July 2021
Armenia Ready to Resume Karabakh Talks with Azerbaijan via OSCE Mediation

The acting Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has expressed his country’s readiness to resume the Karabakh peace talks under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group, at a time when the Azerbaijani president called for signing a peace treaty with Yerevan.

"Armenia is ready to resume the Karabakh peace process in the format and context mentioned in the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs," Pashinyan said at a government meeting on July 15 referring to the Minsk Group co-chairs' April 13 statement which called on Baku and Yerevan "to resume high-level political dialogue under the auspices of the co-chairs" in order "to resolve remaining areas of concern and to create an atmosphere of mutual trust conducive to long-lasting peace". 

He said that "instead of destructive actions and statements, the Azerbaijani leadership would better heed the mediators' calls and voice its clear position regarding the co-chairs' statement," and added that Yerevan "will unswervingly seek the implementation of the Karabakh people's right to self-determination".

He also accused Baku of attempting to thwart the unblocking of regional transport communications, peace talks proposed by the mediators and regional stability as a whole.

Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan makes "provocative statements threatening Armenia's territorial integrity", adding that Baku "has territorial claims to many of its neighbours which is the main factor jeopardizing the regional stability and peace". 

"Armenia will be defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all possible and impossible means, including the Armenian-Russian Joint Group of Troops and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. We are continuing consultations with our partners regarding this issue," he said.

He went on to say that "the comprehensive settlement of the Karabakh issue, the demarcation and delimitation of borders and opening regional communications have been and will remain among our priorities".

Pashinyan's comments came following Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's remarks on July 14 that "we are ready to sign a peace treaty with Armenia. However, there is no reaction to this from Armenia”.

Aliyev added that such an approach from the Armenian side could lead to a big mistake similar to what has been seen before and after the war with Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region. The Azerbaijani president is convinced that the authorities of Armenia should assess the peace proposal before it’s too late. 

“Because our proposal is based on a new real situation. We believe that the issue has been resolved and there should be a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There must be recognition of each other's territorial integrity, recognition of borders, and delimitation work must begin,” the Azerbaijani president said.

The president also reiterated that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was over. "This conflict has been resolved. And we are the ones who resolved it. We resolved it unilaterally," he said.

He also said that those who thought that the conflict had not been resolved were on "a every erroneous and dangerous path". "We believe that it has been resolved and the war period has been left behind. However, despite this, we are ready for war at any moment and we must be ready," he added.

Armenian authorities, however, say peace could be achieved after Azerbaijan’s recognition of the so-called status of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. Deputy Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said Yerevan would not talk about solutions until “the issue of status is finally resolved, and negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group have not been resumed.”

"We should sit down at the negotiation table and the first thing to be discussed is withdrawal of Azerbaijani military units from within the borders of the Republic of Armenia," Avinyan said on July 14, and accused Azerbaijan of "stirring up tension on the border frequently" and blackmailing Armenia. 

"Delimitation and demarcation will be done with all our neighbors sooner or later," he said, adding that "we will start discussions about fundamental issues afterward".

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a border standoff since mid-May after the reported movement of Azerbaijani troops into two sections of Armenia's state border - one in Syunik Region and the other in Gegharkunik Region.

Armenian authorities have long been seeking a so-called “status” to the separatist regime deployed in the once occupied Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. They have been demanding a “right to self-determination” of the Armenian people living within Azerbaijan’s borders.

In a meeting with the separatist Karabakh leader, Arayik Harutyunyan, in Yerevan on 9 July, Pashinyan said that "the problem of clarifying the status of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] continues to be the most important issue on our agenda," the government's press service quoted Pashinyan as saying. 

For his turn, Harutyunyan said that "fortunately, the principles of the OSCE Minsk Group [which had mediated peace talks between Baku and Yerevan] have not changed, and their position remains the same as it was before the [2020 September-November] war. We must strive to ensure that it [Karabakh's status] remains on the agenda. All your statements and our statements that the path of independence of Artsakh is not subject to discussion indicate that we need to continue our fight," Harutyunyan said.

Azerbaijani authorities offered Armenians cultural autonomy inside Azerbaijan similar to what is seen in Scandinavian Aland Islands and Italian South Tyrol district. However, they rejected everything calling for independence and Azerbaijan’s recognition of the separatist regime as an independent entity. President Ilham Aliyev explained that what the Armenian authorities call the “Nagorno-Karabakh region” did not exist anymore in the territory of Azerbaijan, and added that Baku was not going to recognize any “status” for such an illegal formation.  

Azerbaijani authorities have refused to use the term "Nagorno-Karabakh” after Azerbaijani forces won a decisive victory in a bloody war with Armenia in the Karabakh region last year. The war brought an end to Armenia’s decades-long illegal occupation of the Azerbaijani lands and its refusal to withdraw its forces despite international calls. Twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory fell under Armenia’s occupation in the wake of a war that ensued shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991-1994.

The two neighboring nations clashed in the second-largest war in Karabakh, which took place September 27- November 9, 2020.  The Azerbaijani army reclaimed 300 settlements with successful counter-attack operations that came in response to Armenia’s non-stop artillery shelling of military posts and civilian settlements in Azerbaijan. Five major cities in Karabakh, including Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha returned to Azerbaijan’s control. The war ended in a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement on November 10. Armenia withdrew from three more districts – Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin under its obligations outlined in the ceasefire deal.