Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, Azeri President Aliyev, and Russian President Putin were set today, May 25th, to hold a trilateral meeting in order to further discuss peace processes and the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The meeting was after a larger meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, an economic group of several former-Soviet states.
However, hours before the trilateral meeting, Pashinyan and Aliyev broke out into a several minute long argument right in front of Putin. It began after Pashinyan once again accused Azerbaijan of creating a “humanitarian crisis” with their blockade of the Lachin/Berdzor corridor, the sole road connecting Armenia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), since December (the blockade may be read about in an article I wrote here: https://theatlasnews.co/conflict/2023/04/29/the-new-face-of-the-artsakh-blockade/ ). Aliyev responded by saying “Azerbaijan did not block any corridor… There is no need to use this platform for unfounded accusations”, which resulted in the argument. The two went back and forth for several minutes, before Putin himself cut the conversation.
“We will now have the opportunity, as we agreed, to talk about everything calmly in a businesslike manner in a trilateral format, and I hope to reach some agreements that will put the situation not only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also in the region, on the path of constructive development. I can assure you that everyone here has an interest in this, absolutely everyone”. -President Putin.
Despite the argument, Pashinyan stated he believes significant progress is being made between their two nations. He furthermore stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan have in fact agreed upon mutual recognition of each others territory, though Pashinyan once again reiterated that he hopes “that soon a normal constructive dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert will begin”, something Artsakh and Azerbaijan both are unlikely to give in to.
Though it does not ecplicitly mention the argument (except for stating Pashinyan corrected Aliyev on a couple of statements), Prime Minister Pashinyan’s website released a statement regarding the meeting, quoting his speech to the council. While much of it was stating economic progress and goals, the portion related to Azerbaijan and the corridor may be read below:
(For context of the statement, the Zangezur corridor is an Azeri and Turkish proposal for a corridor from the bulk of Azerbaijan, through Armenia to the Nakhchivan exclave, which would connect not only both portions of Azerbaijan to each other, but also Turkey to all of Azerbaijan. The corridor has been opposed by Armenia, Iran, and usually also Russia, though Aliyev claimed they supported it.)
During the session, issues related to the development of cooperation in various fields within the framework of EAEU were discussed.
In his speech, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev used the wording “Zangezur Corridor”, to which Prime Minister Pashinyan responded. “In his speech, the president of Azerbaijan used an expression that has been used in recent years as a title for making territorial claims against Armenia. I would like to note that this is used in the framework of the implementation of point 9 of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020.
I would like to emphasize that the Declaration mentions only one corridor, and it is the Lachin corridor, which was supposed to be under the control of Russian peacekeepers, but, unfortunately, is illegally blocked by Azerbaijan. On the other hand, I want to confirm the readiness of the Republic of Armenia to unblock all transport and economic connections and communications in the region that pass through the territory of the Republic of Armenia – we call it the “Armenian Crossroads” and we are ready to open regional communications within the framework of the sovereignty and jurisdiction of those countries through which they pass. I mean the transport and economic communications mentioned in point 9 of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020 and the trilateral statement of January 11, 2021.”
Prime Minister Pashinyan emphasized that those who are familiar with the text of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, know that there is only one use of the word “corridor” in it. “And in this context, this word has a special meaning, and it is the Lachin Corridor, which, I repeat, according to the trilateral declaration, should be under the control of the Russian Federation and provide a connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. But, unfortunately, in the presence of Russian peacekeepers, Azerbaijan illegally closed this corridor. On the other hand, I would like to confirm that Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed on mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. And on this basis, yes, it can be said that we are going quite well in the direction of normalizing our relations.
In this context, I would also like to mention a very important issue, the issue of the rights and security of the people of Nagorno Karabakh within the framework of the international mechanism. I hope that soon a normal constructive dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert will begin,” said the Prime Minister.
Referring to Aliyev’s statement that Russia also supports the idea of Zangezur Corridor, Nikol Pashinyan noted: “It is very interesting to know that Russia supports the project you mentioned. To be honest, this is the first time I have heard about it.
I know that Russia supports the opening of all transport and economic communications in our region. You said “Lachin road”, but according to our trilateral declaration, “Lachin road” does not exist, there is a corridor which, according to the trilateral declaration signed by three of us, should be under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces, that is, no one else should exercise any control of this corridor.
And what is happening there is a direct violation of the trilateral declaration. And you said that the corridor is open, but we don’t see it, we don’t think so. Therefore, we consider it important that an international fact-finding mission be sent to both the Lachin Corridor and Nagorno Karabakh to assess the humanitarian situation in Nagorno Karabakh.
And I must say that, unfortunately, we have a humanitarian crisis there since December, because due to the closure of the Lachin corridor, obstacles are created for the supply of food and other necessities. And this is a very serious situation. Gas and electricity have also been blocked by Azerbaijan. I mean the gas and electricity going to Nagorno Karabakh. And, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you know about it very well, because we have talked about this many times.”
The results of the trilateral meeting have yet to been shown.