Wednesday, Top Russian Official Visits Azerbaijan, Armenia Ahead Of Sochi Talks Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (R) receives Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk in Yerevan, . Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk paid visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia on Wednesday to meet with the two countries’ leaders ahead of their talks to be hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week. Overchuk, who co-heads a Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani working group dealing with regional unblocking, in Yerevan discussed prospects of restoring transport links in the South Caucasus with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, the latter’s press office said. “The further course of the work carried out within the framework of the trilateral statement of January 11  was also on the agenda of the meeting,” the statement added. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko accompanied Overchuk at the meeting during which the two sides also reportedly discussed issues on the agenda of bilateral cooperation between Armenia and Russia. Earlier on November 24 Overchuk was in Baku where he met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev receives Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexey Overchuk. Baku, . Quoting Aliyev’s press office, Azerbaijani media reported that during the meeting in Baku the two “exchanged views” on the activities of the trilateral working group and “expressed confidence that unblocking of transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan soon will contribute to stability and economic development in the region.” Restoration of economic and transport links in the region is one of the provisions of the Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped a 44-day Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh last November. One year after signing the deal Azerbaijan and Armenia still appear to interpret differently its clause dealing with regional unblocking. Aliyev has pushed for what he calls a Zangezur corridor that will link Azerbaijan with its western Nakhichevan exclave via Armenian territory, while Pashinian has rejected any ‘corridor logic’ behind the future regional unblocking, insisting that Armenia must not lose sovereignty over transport routes passing through its territory. Visiting Yerevan earlier this month, Overchuk effectively backed Armenia’s position. “It seems to us that we are getting close to concrete decisions, which are first and foremost based on the notion that the countries will retain sovereignty over roads passing through their territory,” Russia’s deputy prime minister said during a meeting with Pashinian on November 5. In a related development today Armenia’s Foreign Ministry reported about a phone call between Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. It said that the two discussed issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “the course of the implementation by the sides of their commitments under the trilateral statements.” The meeting between the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is due to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi on November 26. Pashinian and Aliyev have also accepted the European Union’s offer to meet on the sidelines of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on December 15. Date Set For Siradeghian Funeral In Armenia Armenia’s former Interior Minster Vano Siradeghian (file photo) After nearly six weeks of uncertainty Armenian authorities have set a date for the funeral of Vano Siradeghian, a prominent politician and former interior minister who fled Armenia over two decades ago. A government committee announced on Wednesday that a memorial service for Siradeghian will take place in the Opera House in Yerevan on December 3, while the late politician will be buried in his native village of Koti the next day. Siradeghian was one of the leaders of a popular movement for Armenia’s unification with Nagorno-Karabakh who came to power in 1990. He became one of the newly independent country’s most powerful men when serving as interior minister in the administration of its first President Levon Ter-Petrosian from 1992-1996. One year after Ter-Petrosian resigned in 1998, Siradeghian was charged with ordering a string of contract killings. He strongly denied ordering those killings, saying that the charges were fabricated as part of then President Robert Kocharian’s efforts to neutralize his political foes. Siradeghian fled Armenia in 2000 ahead of the Armenian parliament’s decision to allow law-enforcement authorities to arrest him. Although the authorities had Siradeghian placed on Interpol’s wanted list, his whereabouts always remained unknown to the public. The death of the 74-year-old Siradeghian was announced by his wife and son on October 16. They did not specify its cause or reveal his last place of residence. The Armenian government decided afterwards to form a commission that will organize his funeral. During an online press conference on Tuesday Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said: “I think that the commission will make decisions and the remains of Vano Siradeghian will be transported to Armenia.” Siradeghian lived abroad under a new and false name, according to Khachatur Sukiasian, a wealthy businessman and pro-government parliamentarian who has long been close to the ex-minister. This is why, Sukiasian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service in October, repatriating his body was fraught with some “difficulties”, including legal issues. Throughout his exile Siradeghian continued to enjoy the strong backing of Ter-Petrosian and members of the ex-president’s entourage. Ter-Petrosian’s Armenian National Congress party has urged the Armenian authorities to allow Siradeghian’s family to bury him at the National Pantheon in Yerevan. Armenian Opposition Lambasts Pashinian Over ‘Disgraceful’ Press Conference The Armenian National Assembly in session (file photo) Members of Armenia’s parliamentary opposition have strongly criticized Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for holding what they described as a ‘disgraceful’ online press conference on Tuesday night. Hayk Mamijanian, an MP from the opposition Pativ Unem faction, said that Pashinian often forgets that his statements are heard also outside Armenia. He claimed that many of the thoughts expressed by Pashinian yesterday “have made Armenia more vulnerable.” “Taking into account the fact that questions for that online press conference were submitted in advance, he had an opportunity to do a little homework. But like a lazy student he failed to do that,” Mamijanian said. Some of the questions addressed to Pashinian concerned his upcoming meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Sochi and Brussels and issues of border delimitation and demarcation with Azerbaijan. As for the nature of the document that Armenia and Azerbaijan may sign as a result of their talks, Pashinian said: “There is an impression that a paper will be signed on the results of border delimitation and demarcation. Such a thing is simply not possible. The potential document that will be signed will be about Armenia and Azerbaijan forming a commission to start dealing with delimitation and demarcation works. It will not be written in that document that the border passes through here or there.” MP Artsvik Minasian from the opposition Hayastan faction said that he did not trust Pashinian’s statements. At the same time, the lawmaker stressed that regardless of what document will be signed, it must be brought to the National Assembly for ratification. Armenian PM Receives Syunik’s Local Leaders Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian receives heads of Syunik communities. . The central government keeps problems of Syunik in the center of its attention, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said as he received leaders of major communities of the southern province in Yerevan on Wednesday. “It is necessary to provide complete information on what is happening, why it is happening, on what to expect and what not to expect. We all should be able to clearly assess the realities, be able to distinguish between false information and true information,” Pashinian said. The Armenian premier called for “harmonious work of all central and local government bodies on many internal and external issues.” “Because it is about the protection of state and national interests,” Pashinian explained. Pashinian, whose Civil Contract party lost in several key communities of Syunik during recent local elections, also stressed the importance of “citizens being sure that their vote counts.” During the meeting attended by the mayors of Kapan, Meghri, Tegh, Tatev, Gorayk, Kajaran, Sisian as well as by the deputy mayor of Goris, Pashinian also addressed issues connected with expected economic and transport unblocking in the region and delimitation and demarcation of the border with Azerbaijan, the prime minister’s press office said. The meeting with Syunik’s local leaders comes one day after Pashinian vehemently rejected what he described as Azerbaijan’s demand for an extraterritorial corridor to its western Nakhichevan exclave via Syunik (called Zangezur in Azerbaijan). Pashinian implied that the deadly clashes along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Syunik on November 16 were the result of Baku’s response to Yerevan’s rejection of ‘corridor logic.’ At the same time, the Armenian leader again spoke in favor of general regional unblocking in which all countries will maintain sovereignty over transit roads passing through their territories. Restoration of economic and transport links in the region is one of the terms of the Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped a 44-day Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020. The recent border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan also renewed international calls for the delimitation and demarcation of the Soviet-era border between the two South Caucasus countries. The leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to meet in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi on November 26. According to the Kremlin, during the Sochi talks “it is planned to discuss the implementation of the agreements reached on November 9  and January 11  as well as to outline further steps to strengthen stability and establish a peaceful life in the region.” Armenia Rejects ‘Corridor’ Condition For Improving Ties With Turkey Armenia - A general view of central Yerevan against the backdrop of Mount Ararat located in the territory of modern-day Turkey Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has reiterated Yerevan’s readiness to normalize its relations with Ankara, but warned that such a process cannot take place if Turkey presses conditions like Azerbaijan getting an exterritorial corridor to its western Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia. “We want to normalize our relations with Turkey. We cannot discuss any corridor issue. But we want to discuss opening of regional transport links,” Pashinian said during an online press conference late on Tuesday answering a question from RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. Pashinian and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exchanged public statements in August about reciprocal “positive signals” for normalizing relations after decades of feud over historical events, including the Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians that over two dozen governments in the world recognize as the first genocide of the 20th century. In an interview with Le Figaro earlier this month Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan revealed, however, that Ankara was setting new conditions for starting a dialogue with Yerevan, including the provision of an exterritorial corridor for Azerbaijan. He told the French daily that the demand for such a corridor was out of the question. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian holds an online press conference, . Pashinian, too, said that last year’s Russia-brokered Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement did not envisage any exterritorial corridors. He stressed, however, that Armenia is ready to provide transit roads via its territory, which is part of the deal that stopped a 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh, maintaining sovereignty over them. “We want to normalize our relations with Turkey. But we want to ask a question to both Turkey and Azerbaijan, since they declare about their being ‘one people – two nations’. Do they or do they not want to destroy the Republic of Armenia, Armenia’s statehood? Do they or do they not want to continue and complete the genocide of the Armenian people? If not, then it is a different question. If yes, then what choice do we have besides resistance?” Pashinian said, adding that Armenia expects answers to these questions in the form of actions rather than statements. “If they do not want it, then they are right when they say that there is a historical chance to establish peace and stability in this region,” the Armenian leader concluded. Earlier this week Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said that Yerevan had asked Moscow to act as a mediator in a possible rapprochement process with Ankara. Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2021 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.