US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is ‘within reach’, following the conclusion of four days of negotiations in Washington.
Blinken, who mediated talks, stated on Friday that ‘progress’ had been made despite ‘differences on key issues’, a sentiment echoed by official statements from both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On Thursday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that they had yet to agree on an international mechanism to guarantee the security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians or the format of dialogue between Stepanakert and Baku.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov kickstarted this round of negotiations with a meeting with Blinken on Monday.
The negotiations were the biggest talks aimed at normalising relations between the two countries since the blockade of the Lachin Corridor began in mid-December. They included meetings with Blinken and Jake Sullivan, US President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser.
The two countries discussed the delimitation and demarcation of their shared borders and the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.
Late last year, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on clarifying their borders based on the 1991 Almaty Declaration. No progress had been made since then.
The United States has repeatedly called on Azerbaijan to restore regular traffic through the Lachin Corridor, as Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh appear to remain almost entirely cut off from the outside world.
In late April, Azerbaijan installed a checkpoint at the entrance of the corridor in violation of the November 2020 ceasefire agreement, which stipulates that the Lachin Corridor should fall under the control of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Yerevan appeared somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, with Yerevan-based political analyst Tigran Grigoryan describing the talks as a ‘setback’ with no joint statement signed, ‘as there probably was an expectation that at least something would be signed’.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Grigoryan said that a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan would only be possible if Armenia ‘abandons’ its position on key issues, such as the establishment of direct communication channels between Baku and Stepanakert.
Natig Jafarli, an economist and one of the leaders of Azerbaijan’s ReAl Party, appeared more optimistic, saying that peace could be achieved.
‘The final stage of such negotiations is always very difficult’, wrote Jafarli on Facebook.
He speculated that President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan would likely come up with a framework agreement on the sidelines of the upcoming European Political Community Summit in Moldova.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova announced that Moscow planned to host its own tripartite meeting with Yerevan and Baku.
Zakharova stated that it was important for Moscow to ‘inquire about the process of [the Washington] negotiations from the direct participants’.
She said that Yerevan and Baku had already agreed to the meeting and that the dates would be announced later.
On Thursday, Pashinyan confirmed that he would visit Moscow next week to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia, which has long spearheaded mediation efforts between Azerbaijan and Armenia, has been dismissive of Western mediation in the Armenia–Azerbaijan conflict.
Earlier this year, Moscow also denounced the establishment of a European civilian monitoring mission in Armenia, instead offering a CSTO alternative to the mission, which Yerevan appeared to brush aside.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.