The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia agreed to take steps to launch a commission to delimit and demarcate the Armenia-Azerbaijan border during a trilateral summit in Sochi on November 26.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arranged the meeting with Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev after the latest border clashes. On November 16, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched an attack along the eastern border of Armenia, conquering territory in the Vayots Dzor province. At least 13 soldiers were killed on both sides.
While Pashinyan and Aliyev were expected to meet on the anniversary of the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement, the meeting was postponed following a breakdown in negotiations. The Kremlin announced that the leaders would review the implementation of the ceasefire and subsequent January 11, 2021 agreement to unblock regional transportation and communication channels during the November 26 summit.
In his comments to the press before the meeting, Putin said that “a lot has been accomplished” in the past year to restore normal life in the region. “Unfortunately, not every issue has been settled yet,” he said. He hopes joint efforts among the leaders will “create proper conditions for the revival of the region so people can feel safe and engage in economic activity.”
Aliyev said that while regional communication and transportation channels have not yet been opened, other points of the trilateral statement have “mostly been carried out.”
“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,” he said.
Pashinyan disagreed with Aliyev’s assessment that the situation is generally stable. “I cannot agree with the opinion of the President of Azerbaijan that all items except the unblocking of connections have been fulfilled,” he continued, referring to the continued detention of Armenian prisoners of war.
He summarized the crisis created along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border since the invasion of sovereign Armenian territory by Azerbaijani troops on May 12. While some points of the border have not been delimited or demarcated, “a state border exists,” said Pashinyan.
After a three-hour meeting, the leaders signed a trilateral document reaffirming their commitment to the implementation of the November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021 declarations.
They “agreed to take steps to increase the level of stability and security on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border” and to “push the process of establishment of a bilateral commission with the advisory participation of the Russian Federation” on border delimitation and demarcation.
They also “stressed the need to launch specific programs as soon as possible, aimed at identifying the economic potential of the region.”
“The Russian Federation will continue to provide the necessary assistance for normalizing relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia, building an atmosphere of trust between the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples, and establishing good-neighborly relations in the region,” the statement reads.
In his comments after the meeting, Putin said that Aliyev and Pashinyan had agreed on the establishment of mechanisms for border demarcation and delimitation. While the trilateral statement does not refer to a commission on demarcation and delimitation, Putin said such a commission will be created by the end of the year.
He also said that the leaders had made good progress on a “very important and sensitive point related to humanitarian issues.” He did not clarify what humanitarian issue he was referring to.
However, Putin did not share any agreements reached regarding the unblocking of transport and communication links. According to Putin, the leaders had an “in-depth conversation on economic issues” and “unblocking transport corridors.” The trilateral working group overseeing the opening of transportation and communication links plans to meet in Moscow next week to announce decisions approved during the Sochi summit.
Pashinyan described the meeting as “very positive. “We clarified our positions, and it turned out that we do not have disagreements on some issues which seemed to exist prior to the meeting,” he said.
He also said that the leaders hold a “common understanding” on how regional transport routes will operate.
Two days after the meeting, Aliyev said that the “Zangezur corridor is becoming a reality.” “This new transportation infrastructure will be an essential component of the East-West and North-South corridors,” he said during the 15th Summit Economic Cooperation Organization in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Armenia denied that Armenia is involved in negotiations on the provision of a corridor to Azerbaijan. The November 26 Sochi statement “once again refutes the propaganda theses on so-called ‘corridor’ or the corridor logic,” MoFA spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan said.
On the day of the November 26 summit, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) of Armenia reported that Azerbaijan repatriated two more Armenian prisoners: Aren Jirary Aramyan (born 1993) and Mihran Ernest Musayelyan (born 2000).
According to the Azerbaijan State Commission on Captives and Missing Persons, Aramyan was detained during the military operations on November 16 and provided with “necessary medical care.” No other details are provided regarding his medical treatment.
At least 32 Armenian soldiers were taken captive by Azerbaijan during the November 16 border clashes. In the following days, videos circulated on social media depicting the physical and psychological abuse and mistreatment of Armenian POWs by Azerbaijani soldiers.
Musayelyan was detained in the Agdam region after he got lost and entered territory controlled by Azerbaijani servicemen. On November 23, the Artsakh National Security Service reported that a civilian resident of the Martuni district was detained after straying into Azerbaijani territory.