Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on October 31, Armenian authorities have confirmed.
Putin invited Pashinyan and Aliyev to “agree on a date” and “meet in Russia at any place, at any time” in a trilateral format, while addressing a summit of formerly Soviet states on October 14. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Monday that a “summit is being prepared,” without providing further details about the time or place. Armenian parliamentary speaker Alen Simonyan told reporters on Wednesday that Pashinyan will visit Sochi on October 31 and that he assumes that Pashinyan will meet with Aliyev there.
Pashinyan confirmed while addressing the Armenian National Assembly on Wednesday that he will be going to Sochi, but said he has “no information” regarding whether or not the Azerbaijani leadership has confirmed its participation.
Pashinyan and Aliyev previously met with the Russian president nearly a year ago in November 2021. Since then, the South Caucasus leaders have had five in-person meetings, all of which were mediated by the European Union.
Russian authorities have criticized efforts by the EU and the United States to mediate negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, accusing the West of attempting to wrest Russia’s role as the primary mediator in the South Caucasus. While western diplomacy in the South Caucasus has intensified, the Armenian government has criticized Russia for its failure to support Armenia militarily following Azerbaijan’s attacks in mid-September, as per mutual defense agreements, or to accuse Azerbaijan of violating Armenia’s sovereignty.
Pashinyan told parliament on Wednesday that the leaders will discuss the security of Artsakh in Sochi, as well as the demarcation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the creation of security mechanisms along the border.
“It is incomprehensible for me that those colleagues who have said the creation of a delimitation committee is a security mechanism have not expressed a clear political position on the September 13 aggression,” Pashinyan said. “These are problems that I will discuss with the Russian president in a trilateral format.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Armenia is subjected to “unprecedented external pressure” to “discredit Russia’s policy in the region,” in comments to the press on October 24.
“Numerous foundations, NGOs and the media, acting at the behest of Washington and Brussels, are striving with a vengeance to plant anti-Russian sentiments in society,” Zakharova said.
She called accusations that Moscow does not fulfill its security obligations to Armenia “unsubstantiated,” stating that the West is increasing its involvement in the South Caucasus out of self-interest.
“The true goals of Washington and Brussels are by no means the development of compromise and balanced solutions, but self-promotion and squeezing Russia out of the Transcaucasus,” Zakharova said.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded that there is “no greater supporter than the United States for the sovereignty and independence of countries in the South Caucasus.”
“There is nothing self-promotional about seeking to put an end to years of conflict and to years of flare-ups that have led to violence and ultimately to deaths, both on the part of Armenians and the citizens of Azerbaijan. Our only goal here is to see and to help these countries work together to bring about a comprehensive and lasting peace, and ultimately to save lives,” Price said during a press briefing on October 25.
Regarding the upcoming meeting in Sochi, Price said that it is “ultimately for Armenia and Azerbaijan to decide whether President Putin’s invitation would be helpful or useful to them in pursuit of that lasting peace.”
“Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and its ongoing brutal invasion of Ukraine suggests that Moscow has little respect for its neighbor’s sovereignty and is hardly a reliable, long-term partner,” Price said. “But ultimately, this is going to be a decision that Armenia and Azerbaijan will have to reach.”
Zakharova further accused the West of promoting “hastily concocted initiatives” that “do not take into account the interests of the entire population of the region.” She did not specify which portions of the population would be undermined by the negotiation process.
“Attempts by external forces to achieve the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping contingent are precisely aimed at destabilizing the South Caucasus,” Zakharova said.
Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan suggested that the security of Artsakh depends on Russia during a televised interview on October 21.
“I don’t imagine the future of Artsakh without the presence of the Russian Federation in the form of a peacekeeping contingent or another mission,” Harutyunyan said.
He also precluded any agreement that would recognize Azerbaijani control over Artsakh, implicitly suggesting that western peace proposals would be detrimental to Artsakh.
“We have to tell our public that international players that are trying to offer their services with regard to that formula or treaty are not quite making beneficial proposals,” Harutunyan said. “But this will not prevent us from using the important norm about peoples’ right to self-determination in accordance with the UN charter, and our struggle will be within the framework of that norm.”
On October 4, Haykakan Zhamanak, a Yerevan-based newspaper edited by Pashinyan’s wife Anna Hakobyan, published an article by an anonymous source arguing that Russia wants Armenia “as vulnerable as possible” to ensure its dependence on Russia.
“Russia wants from Armenia nearly what it wants from Ukraine—that it becomes part of the Russia-Belarus Union State or part of Russia itself,” the article reads.
The article, widely believed in Armenia to be penned by Pashinyan, argues that it is in Russia’s interest to prolong the Artsakh conflict as a “lever of influence over Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Earlier this year, Azerbaijan submitted five principles to Armenia on which a peace agreement should be based, including the recognition of each other’s territorial integrity. Pashinyan has said that he is prepared to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. He has also stated that an initial peace agreement should not include any references to the status or security of Artsakh. Opposition figures have accused Pashinyan of being prepared to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan.