The consultations were timed to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the Statement on a complete ceasefire and termination of all hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone of November 9, 2020.
The discussion focused on the progress in implementing the earlier agreements, further steps towards strengthening stability and restoring peaceful life in the region, and various aspects of restoring and developing trade, economic and transport links.
Following the meeting, Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan approved a Statement by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the President of the Russian Federation.
The leaders of the three countries also made statements on the outcome of the trilateral talks.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, friends,
I would like to begin by thanking you for making time to respond to my invitation and to come to Russia to review the work that has been carried out during the year since the adoption of the peace statement last year. We reaffirmed our agreements on the ceasefire and restoring normal life later in January. A lot has been accomplished during this time.
Unfortunately, not every issue have been settled yet. I am aware of the tragic incidents at the border when people on both sides get killed or wounded. These things require special attention on our part, and in fact, we are meeting today in order to avoid incidents like this in the future.
Overall, much has been accomplished during the year. First, no large-scale hostilities are taking place, which is very good in and of itself. During this time – and with our assistance – much has been done to have the refugees go back to their homes, with 53,000 people returning to their permanent place of residence. A good monitoring group has been created, and our contingent is working there. As far as I understand and according to assessments from both sides, it is doing a good job, providing safe living conditions for the locals. The Russian-Turkish ceasefire monitoring centre is operational. Most importantly, conditions are being created for a normal peaceful life.
A trilateral commission has been created at the level of deputy prime ministers of the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. My colleagues have reported to me on its progress. It is not easy, but, nevertheless, this work is at an advanced stage, and there is reason to believe that we will soon be able to not only confirm the work of the corresponding group on unblocking transport links, but also make the appropriate decisions that everyone needs.
I think this is, in fact, the goal of our efforts, namely, to create proper conditions for the revival of the region so people can feel safe and engage in economic activity and develop the economy. All this, of course, should have the most favourable effect on the living standards of the citizens of both countries.
This is of great importance for Russia since we have special relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan. We were part of a single state for many centuries, we have deep historical ties, and I would not want to sever them, but on the contrary, we must strive to restore and maintain them in the future.
This is what I would like to say in my opening remarks.
President Aliyev and I have preliminarily discussed the issues that we will be working to approve in the course of our joint work. We have done this with the Armenian side in advance. I have repeatedly discussed these matters with the Prime Minister of Armenia, and we also exchanged views on this matter on our way to this venue. Mr Pashinyan will stay after the trilateral meeting, and we will have a bilateral meeting with him.
This is, perhaps, all I wanted to say to open our meeting. If our colleagues want or need to say something at the beginning of our meeting, please go ahead.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much for the invitation, Mr President.
We in Azerbaijan greatly appreciate your personal participation in settling relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and of course, your involvement in harmonizing the text of the Statement last year.
As you mentioned, we met in this format early this year. Now we are meeting at the end of the year so we can review the results.
Of course, the situation is generally stable in the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers. There have been no serious incidents or deliberate provocations. Isolated incidents were not common. So I would like to thank the Russian peacekeeping contingent for its good service: they are ensuring security in the region that was in a state of frozen conflict for many years and the site of a full-scale war last year.
This year, Azerbaijan has displayed a most constructive approach towards eliminating the consequences of the war and unblocking communications. I believe this issue is an important one as one of the items that have not yet been fulfilled, because the other items in the trilateral Statement, which was adopted and signed in November last year, have mostly been carried out. So I think, as we have already talked about this, it would be natural to discuss this, as well as the delimitation of borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We also appreciate Russia’s support, including advice, on this issue.
The border between Azerbaijan and Armenia has not been delimited, and we have repeatedly said on the record that we are willing to start the process of delimitation immediately. Further: we have suggested to Armenia, publicly, starting work on a peace treaty in order to put an official end to the confrontation, recognize each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and live in the future as neighbours, learn to live as neighbours from scratch.
Of course, there is a host of other emerging problems, but they are being resolved promptly, in part with Russia’s help – your personal involvement and contributions from the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the Government and other bodies.
I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to hold this meeting today.
Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan: Mr President, let me first thank you for the invitation and for organising this meeting.
But before moving on to today’s agenda, allow me to convey condolences on behalf of the Armenian people and from myself over the explosion in Kuzbass. It killed many people. I want to express my condolences to the families and friends of the miners that were killed.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Nikol Pashinyan: Your personal role and the role of the Russian Federation in stopping the war last year is obvious to everyone. After November 9, Russian peacekeepers were deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh, along the Lachin corridor. Russian peacekeepers and the Russian Federation are playing a key role in stabilising the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the region in general.
However, I would like to emphasise that unfortunately the situation is not as stable as we would like it to be. Several dozen people have died on both sides since November 9, and other incidents occur in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. Since May 12 we have actually had a crisis at the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We believe Azerbaijani troops have invaded Armenia’s sovereign territory. Of course, some borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan have not been delimited or demarcated, but a state border exists and this defines the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.
I cannot agree with the opinion of the President of Azerbaijan that all items except the unblocking of connections have been fulfilled. You know, and I have discussed this with you several times both in person and by telephone, that there is also the problem of hostages, other detainees and POWs, and this is a very important humanitarian issue. But I would like to say I believe that today we have met not only to voice these problems but also to discuss ways of resolving them.
I have also said more than once that Armenia is willing to start the process of delimitation and demarcation of the border. It is vital to us too to open, to unblock all transport and economic connections. We are sincerely interested in resolving these problems, and I hope we will review all of them today.
I saw that during your bilateral meeting with the President of Azerbaijan you talked about the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement problem. The President of Azerbaijan just mentioned the issue of peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Of course, we are also interested in this, and we believe the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement must be co-chaired by the OSCE Minsk Group.
I think we must and can discuss many issues in the bilateral format. I must say that officials from Azerbaijan and Armenia are already planning direct contacts. I think it is necessary to emphasise that these positions deserve special mention against the backdrop of the not-so-positive nuances.
The most important point about the current meeting is not simply to speak about whether certain problems exist. The main thing is that today we have managed to arrive at practical decisions (or as practical as we could make them) on stabilising the situation in the South Caucasus because we are responsible for peace, stability and security of people.
Vladimir Putin: I think what you have just said is very important. I am referring to what the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia have said. Both sides are interested in normalising the situation and seeing it develop in a positive way.
(Addressing Nikol Pashinyan.) You have just mentioned the connections, the need to unblock them. President Aliyev has spoken about this as well.
Everyone is interested in this, including Russia, considering that we are all close countries, we are neighbours with large trade. Everyone is obviously interested in doing this. This is the first point.
The second point. We are still going to agree on the start of work to demarcate and delimit the borders: first, on delimitation and then on demarcation. We will of course speak about this today. That said, it is clear this is a difficult problem. We inherited it from the Soviet Union. There was no clear-cut border there. But we have an opportunity to talk about all this.
I agree with both my colleagues that the more contacts, including direct ones, the better. Direct bilateral contacts are altogether a priority. I know you are going to have another meeting in Brussels soon. You have agreed to go and meet there, and we welcome this as well. The more opportunities you have for direct communication, the better. I also talked about this recently with President of the European Council Charles Michel. He is looking forward to meeting with you. However, I hope we will take a step forward now, and it will be possible to take more steps at other venues. Let me repeat that we do welcome the involvement of our partners in this dialogue. The main point is to make it useful.
Thank you very much.