European Council President Charles Michel has called for a “sustainable normalization of relations” following a week of renewed military hostilities and mutual accusations of derailing negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“All core issues that had led to the first Nagorno-Karabakh war as well as to the renewed hostilities in 2020 will need to be addressed by all stakeholders to create conditions for lasting and equitable peace,” the May 31 statement by Michel’s spokesperson reads.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to launch negotiations on border demarcation during a trilateral meeting in Brussels on May 23. In a statement released after the summit, Michel said that he had “stressed to both leaders that it was necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed.”
Armenian political figures criticized Michel for his usage of “Karabakh” as opposed to “Nagorno-Karabakh,” stating that the former emphasizes the absence of Nagorno-Karabakh as a territorial and political unit.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan called the statement “highly unacceptable,” stating that it “does not reflect the demands and aspirations of the Armenians of Artsakh, based on the right to self-determination.”
Four of the five political parties in the Artsakh parliament released a statement condemning the use of the phrase “ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh,” stating that it “testifies to the retreat of the current authorities of Armenia from the foreign policy vector.”
“The authorities of the Republic of Armenia are obliged to be guided exclusively by the position of promoting and protecting the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination in international instances,” the statement reads.
Michel noted in his May 31 statement that “terminology is particularly sensitive” in conflict settings and that his comments after the trilateral summit should “not be interpreted as favoring a predetermined outcome of discussions either way.”
“What ultimately matters most is that all issues are comprehensively addressed; this includes rights and security of all populations,” the statement reads.
Michel’s statement follows a week in which Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities have accused each other on nearly a daily basis of obstructing the peace process.
On May 28, the Armenian Defense Ministry (MoD) reported that an Armenian soldier was killed by Azerbaijani fire.
Azerbaijani armed forces fired on Armenian military positions in the southeastern part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, according to the MoD of Armenia. Soldier Davit Vahan Vardanyan received a gunshot wound and died in the hospital the next day.
Azerbaijani authorities denied the report of a border attack, stating that such “false and destructive statements” are meant to “undermine the steps taken toward the normalization of relations.” Two days after the border fight, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that Armenian armed forces fired on Azerbaijani positions in the Kelbajar region, which the Armenian Defense Ministry denied as disinformation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia (MoFA) said that “regular ceasefire violations,” including the May 28 attack, prove the “need for a mirror withdrawal of troops from the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the deployment of an observation mission on the border area, which has been repeatedly raised by the Armenian side.”
The MoFA of Armenia also recalled that the “consequences of the previous gross violation” of the ceasefire, during which the “Azerbaijani armed forces invaded the village of Parukh in Nagorno-Karabakh” have “not been eliminated yet.”
Azeri troops advanced on the Askeran region of Artsakh and seized Parukh on March 24. While Russian peacekeeping troops took control of the village after several days of deadly fighting, Armenian authorities reported that Azerbaijani soldiers maintained fortified positions in the nearby Karaglukh height.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated his claim that the Artsakh conflict has been resolved during a lengthy speech the day before the May 28 border attack.
“As for the administrative territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, this territory does not exist in the territory of Azerbaijan. Therefore, the word Nagorno-Karabakh is not in the lexicon of international organizations, and the recent meeting in Brussels showed it once again. It is true that Armenia has once again raised the issue and, as they say, they are hitting their heads on the wall, but this is the reality and they have to come to terms with it,” Aliyev said during a visit to Zangilan.
Aliyev further said during his May 27 speech that the border demarcation process will recognize Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Artsakh.
“It automatically puts an end to the territorial claims made against Azerbaijan by revanchist, fascist forces in Armenia, because if we define the borders, what kind of ‘Nagorno-Karabakh’ status can we talk about?” Aliyev said. “This is the territory of Azerbaijan, and the whole world accepts it. Therefore, the first meeting of the commissions on the delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border is of great importance.”
Aliyev also reiterated his claims that parts of the Republic of Armenia, including the capital city Yerevan and the southernmost province Syunik, are historically part of Azerbaijan.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned Aliyev’s speech as evidence of the “continuation of aggressive and warmongering policy.”
“The negotiations on normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be held on the basis of proposals of both sides, which should address the whole agenda of issues, including the final settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the MoFA of Armenia said.
“We call on the leadership of Azerbaijan not to disrupt the discussions conducted in the existing formats with warmongering, expansionist rhetoric,” the MoFA continued.
In response to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, its Azerbaijani counterpart criticized the “revanchist forces in Armenia” encouraging the continuation of the “aggressive policy pursued by these forces for nearly 30 years.”
“The Armenian side must understand that the attempt to demonstrate the behavior of decades ago is nothing but an illusion. Only a proper assessment of the new realities and new opportunities in the region can lead to the right outcomes,” the MoFA of Azerbaijan said.