YEREVAN—Armenia submitted a sixth proposal for a draft peace agreement to Azerbaijan on November 21, the Armenian Foreign Ministry announced.
“Armenia remains committed to conclude and sign a document on normalization of relations based on previously announced principles,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said. The proposal coincided with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s public declaration that he is committed to intensifying efforts to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.
While addressing the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on November 18, PM Pashinyan highlighted the progress made during trilateral meetings facilitated by European Council president Charles Michel in Brussels. He specifically mentioned that three fundamental principles of peace have been agreed upon between Armenia and Azerbaijan during these negotiations.
Elaborating on these principles, Pashinyan delineated the first as mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity, referring to maps from the USSR General Staff from 1974-1990. He further indicated that both countries have agreed to refrain from territorial claims against each other. PM Pashinyan urged Azerbaijan to publicly declare its commitment to these principles.
However, in response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan released a press statement claiming that Azerbaijan submitted proposals for a draft peace treaty to Armenia in September and accusing Armenia of not providing a response. It called this delay a serious setback to the negotiation process.
Negotiations on a peace treaty are ongoing following Azerbaijan’s invasion of Artsakh on September 19 and its near 10-month blockade of the Berdzor (Lachin) corridor connecting Artsakh to Armenia and the rest of the world, depriving the local Armenian population of food, fuel and basic supplies. Azerbaijan’s September 19 assault on Artsakh led to a mass exodus of over 100,000 people fleeing towards Armenia, sparking widespread condemnation and accusations of ethnic cleansing.
PM Pashinyan also named unblocking of regional communications based on the sovereignty and jurisdiction of each side as another crucial element of a peace treaty. Despite the apparent agreement on several peace principles, Pashinyan said that a lack of mutual trust between the parties is a significant impediment to signing a treaty. He highlighted how past statements from Azerbaijan indicating reluctance towards signing a peace agreement, coupled with perceived intentions for aggressive actions, have hindered progress. Pashinyan called for establishing mechanisms for resolving disputes in interpreting the peace agreement and implementing security guarantees.
The recent shifts in attitude and policy in the West have affected the geopolitics of the region. Additionally, recent statements and actions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, echoed in a multifaceted geopolitical landscape, have intensified discussions around regional stability and the complexities of their diplomatic relations.
In comments to the press on November 20, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied Pashinyan’s remarks that Azerbaijan is preparing for war. Peskov stated that Azerbaijan has expressed its readiness to sign a peace treaty. Azerbaijan’s leadership also denied that such assertions have been made at the state level. It emphasized previous statements advocating for peace and a desire to conclude a peace treaty.
There has been a significant shift in Armenia’s stance regarding military threats from Azerbaijan. Formerly, Armenia had expressed concerns about a potential Azerbaijani invasion in its southern region, due to Azeri demands to open the so-called “Zangezur corridor” in Armenia’s Syunik province for communications. Moreover, international speculation, including from the American Stratfor analytical center, centered on Aliyev’s demands regarding transit through this corridor, potentially affecting the region’s geopolitical landscape. Armenia has rejected the demand for a corridor that would be free from customs and passport controls, insisting that regional communication links should respect the sovereignty of national borders.
Notably, Iran also expressed apprehension regarding possible border changes in the South Caucasus, particularly its shared northern border with Armenia. Its concerns stemmed from broader geopolitical shifts in the region involving various external players such as Turkey, Israel, Europe and the United States.
Responding to escalating tensions, Azerbaijan renounced the idea of the “Zangezur corridor” and proposed an alternative route through Iran for transit to its exclave Nakhichevan. This move aimed to counter commentary that Azerbaijan is preparing to attack Armenia.
Consequently, Armenia faced challenges in its strategic maneuvering, leading PM Pashinyan to shift the battleground to the European platform. During a parliamentary session on November 16, Pashinyan reaffirmed Armenia’s stance on finalizing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan in the forthcoming months, emphasizing the necessity of mutual agreement between both nations.
Pashinyan emphasized the collaborative nature of the peace process, asserting that while Armenia is ready to sign a peace treaty, Azerbaijan’s participation and signature are equally imperative for its successful implementation.
While the negotiation process on a peace deal appears to stall, Azerbaijan has also criticized a decision by the U.S. Senate to halt military aid to Azerbaijan. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill on November 16 to halt military aid to Azerbaijan for the next two fiscal years, a move known as the Armenian Protection Act of 2023. This bill, if approved by the House and signed by the president, would prevent the State Department from granting a waiver necessary to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan under current legislation.
Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and enjoying bipartisan support, the measure represents Congress’ strong stance in restricting U.S. military support to Azerbaijan, particularly following its rapid military advancement in Artsakh in September.
The decision follows a previous joint appeal by 91 lawmakers to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging economic sanctions against Azerbaijani officials for their military actions and blockade in Artsakh. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) also urged Blinken not to extend the waiver in response to Azerbaijan’s invasion of the region, emphasizing the importance of compliance with a 1992 law restricting U.S. aid until Azerbaijan ceases blockades and offensive actions against Armenia and Artsakh.
Despite the Biden administration’s historical practice of issuing waivers citing national security concerns, Ambassador James O’Brien from the State Department recently stated during a House hearing that there are no plans to issue a new waiver under Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.
The Milli Majlis, Azerbaijan’s parliament, has strongly criticized this move by the U.S. Senate, viewing it as damaging to bilateral ties and impeding regional peace efforts. It accused the U.S. of supporting separatist movements within Azerbaijan, eroding trust in U.S. mediation of Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations. The Milli Majlis vowed to firmly counter any actions perceived as detrimental to their national interests. This rebuke highlights growing tensions between both nations, adding complexity to the regional landscape.
Senator Peters emphasized that the bill aimed to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its actions and would restrict military aid for two years due to its failure to comply with previous agreements. He urged the Biden administration to take public action in response to the ongoing conflict.
Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Artsakh Gev Iskajyan told the Weekly in an interview that the recent developments in Washington D.C., namely the passage of the Senate resolution, are welcome steps towards addressing the conflict in the region. “However, it is imperative that we go beyond just these resolutions and aim for punitive measures against Azerbaijan, both for their ethnic cleansing of Artsakh and for their omnipresent threats of war against Armenia,” he stated.