RFE/RL Armenian Service – 12/20/2023


Baku Suggests Peace Deal Without Border Delimitation

        • Nane Sahakian

Armenia - A view of an area in Armenia's Syunik province where Armenian and 
Azerbaijani troops are locked in a border standoff, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the 
Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)

Armenia and Azerbaijan should sign a peace treaty before delimiting their long 
border, a senior Azerbaijani official said on Tuesday.

The Reuters news agency quoted Hikmet Hajiyev, a top foreign policy adviser to 
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, as telling reporters in London that Baku 
believes "the border delimitation issue should be kept separate from peace 
treaty discussions."

The issue has been one of the main sticking points in Armenian-Azerbaijani talks 
on the treaty. Armenia has said until now that it wants the peace deal to 
contain a concrete mechanism for the border delimitation.

Yerevan insists on using late Soviet-era military maps as a basis in that 
process. Baku rejects the idea backed by the European Union.

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan 
Kostanian insisted that the two South Caucasus countries must have a “clear 
border” reflecting a 1991 declaration signed by newly independent ex-Soviet 

Kostanian suggested in July that Baku is reluctant to formally recognize 
Armenia’s existing borders because it wants to leave the door open for future 
territorial claims.

“They key question is whether the parties will manage to agree on the 
delimitation principles and the issue of maps before signing the peace treaty,” 
Tigran Grigorian, a political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on 
Wednesday. “There seems to be no such agreement yet.”

Azerbaijan Signals Conditions For U.S.-Mediated Talks With Armenia

AZERBAIJAN -- Hikmet Hajiyev, the head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department 
of Azerbaijan's Presidential Administration, gives a press briefing in Baku, 
February 26, 2021

Azerbaijani has indicated that it will not hold fresh peace talks with Armenia 
hosted by the United States unless Washington reconsiders what Baku sees as a 
“one-sided approach” to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had been scheduled to host the Armenian 
and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in Washington on November 20 for further 
negotiations on a peace treaty between the two South Caucasus nations. Baku 
cancelled the meeting in protest against statements made by James O’Brien, the 
U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia.

Speaking during a congressional hearing in Washington on November 15, O’Brien 
condemned Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh 
and warned Baku against attacking Armenia to open a land corridor to its 
Nakhichevan exclave.

“We’ve made clear that nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events 
of September 19 until we see progress on the peace track,” he said, adding that 
Washington has cancelled “high-level visits” by Azerbaijani officials and 
suspended military and other aid to Azerbaijan.

O’Brien visited Baku earlier this month in a bid to convince the Azerbaijani 
leadership to reschedule the cancelled meeting. He announced no agreement to 
that effect after the trip.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s top foreign policy aide, Hikmet Hajiyev, 
complained about Washington’s “one-sided and lopsided approach” when he spoke to 
a small group of Western journalists in London on Tuesday.

“We do expect that there could be some different attitudes ... demonstrated by 
the United States executive branch of government,” Newsweek.com quoted him as 
saying. “Once it's done and we don't have any problems, [we can] continue our 
discussions on the Washington platform and with regard to peace discussions.”

Hajiyev hinted that Baku expects U.S. President Joe Biden to waive Section 907 
of the 1992 Freedom Support Act passed in 1992 that bans U.S. assistance to 
Azerbaijan. Like his predecessors, Biden did so in 2021 and 2022.

“Azerbaijan doesn't need any foreign aid or support … But here the psychological 
aspect and political aspect is very important, because it was unfair treatment 
of Azerbaijan,” said Hajiyev.

Aliyev also withdrew from talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
which the European Union had planned to host in October. The EU too has been 
accused by Baku or pro-Armenian bias.

Armenian leaders have suggested that Aliyev is simply dragging his feet on the 
peace treaty in hopes of clinching more concessions from Yerevan

“Azerbaijan may state that it is interested in finalizing the peace treaty with 
Armenia, but unfortunately words are not enough: we need to concentrate on 
deeds,” Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanian told the BBC in an interview 
published on Tuesday.

“The fact is that Azerbaijan is reluctant to finalize the treaty based on 
principles endorsed by the international community,” he said.

Pashinian Hits Back At Putin

        • Shoghik Galstian
        • Astghik Bedevian

Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Armenian Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian in his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, April 19, 2022.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 
latest statement blaming him for Azerbaijan’s September military offensive in 
Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting exodus of the region’s ethnic Armenian 

Putin again claimed last week that Russian peacekeepers could not have thwarted 
the offensive because Pashinian had downgraded their mandate by recognizing 
Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh during Western-mediated talks with 
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in October 2022 and May 2023.

“It’s not we who abandoned Karabakh. It’s Armenia that recognized Karabakh as a 
part of Azerbaijan,” he told a year-end news conference in Moscow.

Pashinian hit back at Putin in an interview with Armenian Public Television 
aired late on Tuesday. He said that the Russian leader himself recognized 
Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan shortly after brokering a ceasefire agreement 
that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

“Those statements were public and are still available on social media, if I’m 
not mistaken,” said Pashinian.

He went on to deplore Russia’s “zero reaction” to Azerbaijan’s subsequent 
attacks on Armenian border areas and military aid requested by Yerevan. He noted 
that one of the Azerbaijani military operations launched in the run-up to 
Armenia’s June 2021 general elections coincided with Russian Foreign Minister 
Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the region.

Nagorno-Karabakh - A general view of Stepanakert, 10 October 2023.

“There was a high probability that the Armenian government would react 
differently [to that assault,] as a result of which the elections would not have 
taken place in Armenia, which would have essentially meant the dissolution of 
the Republic of Armenia. We realized that there is an attempt to dissolve 
Armenia,” Pashinian alleged, implicitly pointing the finger at Moscow.

Addressing the European Parliament in October this year, the Armenian premier 
accused Moscow of using the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict to try to topple him. 
A Russian government source responded by accusing him of helping the West “turn 
Armenia into another Ukraine.”

The Azerbaijani takeover of Karabakh added to unprecedented tensions between 
Moscow and Yerevan. Pashinian and other senior Armenian officials have since 
boycotted meetings of their counterparts from other ex-Soviet states making up 
Russian-led organizations. They have sought instead closer relations with the 
United States and the European Union. The Russian Foreign Ministry has 
repeatedly accused Pashinian of systematically “destroying” Russian-Armenian 

Armenia - Opposition supporters demonstrate in Yerevan, June 14, 2022.

Armenia’s leading opposition groups also hold Pashinian responsible for the fall 
of Karabakh, saying that he precipitated it with his decision to recognize 
Azerbaijani sovereignty over the territory. They staged street protests in 
Yerevan and tried unsuccessfully to topple him last year after he pledged to 
“lower the bar” on Karabakh’s status acceptable to Armenia.

Pashinian on Tuesday again blamed Armenia’s former governments for the 
restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. And he gave more indications 
that the Karabakh issue is closed for his administration.

“As I said, I am the prime minister of Armenia and must advance Armenia’s 
national interests,” he told the government-controlled TV channel.

Artur Khachatrian, an opposition parliamentarian, countered on Wednesday that 
Pashinian had made diametrically opposite statements on Karabakh before the 2020 

“When was he lying: yesterday or in June 2020? Yesterday or in Stepanakert’s 
Renaissance Square where he said [in 2019] that ‘Artsakh is Armenia, period,’ 
that Armenia is the guarantor of Artsakh’s security and that Artsakh will never 
be part of Azerbaijan?” Khachatrian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Iran Reaffirms Opposition To Outside Powers In South Caucasus

Russia - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attends a meeting with Russian 
President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, December 7, 2023.

“Extra-regional countries” must not be allowed to intervene in disputes in the 
South Caucasus, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told Armenian Prime Minister 
Nikol Pashinian in a phone call late on Wednesday.

“Care must be taken that the Caucasus region does not become a field of 
competition for extra-regional countries and that its issues are handled by the 
countries of the region and without the interference of outsiders,” Raisi was 
quoted by his office as saying.

Raisi thus reaffirmed Iran’s strong opposition to Western presence in the 
region, which is shared by Russia. He described it as “harmful for regional 
peace and stability” during an October 23 meeting with Armenia’s visiting 
Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

Mirzoyan travelled to Tehran to attend a multilateral meeting with his 
Azerbaijani, Iranian, Russian and Turkish counterparts held there within the 
framework of the so-called “Consultative Regional Platform 3+3” launched in 
December 2021 in Moscow. Georgia continues to boycott the platform, citing 
continuing Russian occupation of its breakaway regions.

Amid its deepening rift with Moscow, Pashinian’s government is now pinning hopes 
on Western efforts to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal. Russian 
officials claim that the main aim of those efforts is to drive Russia out of the 
South Caucasus, rather than bring peace to the region.

Yerevan is also seeking to deepen Armenia’s ties with the United States and the 
European Union. In September, it hosted a joint U.S.-Armenian military exercise 
criticized by Moscow and Tehran.

According to the official Armenian readout of Pashinian’s call with Raisi, the 
two leaders discussed Armenian-Iranian relations and the implementation of 
bilateral economic agreements. Raisi’s office said in this regard that he 
“expressed satisfaction with the process of developing relations and 
implementing agreements between the two countries.”

Russian Soldier Who Fled To Armenia Found In Custody In Russia

        • Naira Bulghadarian

A photo of Dmitri Setrakov, a Russian soldier who fled to Armenia before being 
arrested there and sent back to Russia.

A Russian conscript soldier who reportedly deserted his army unit fighting in 
Ukraine has been arrested in Armenia and sent back to Russia.

The 39-year-old Dmitry Setrakov was mobilized, along with hundreds of thousands 
of other Russian men, late last year and sent to the frontline in Ukraine’s 
southern Zaporyzhzhia region mostly occupied by Russian forces following their 
February 2022 invasion of the country. Setrakov fled a military hospital there 
in April this year, according to the Russian human rights group Idite Lesom that 
helped him take refuge in Armenia in late November.

The group revealed recently that Russian military police arrested and 
transferred Setrakov to a Russian military base in the northwestern Armenian 
city of Gyumri in early December. It said on Tuesday that he is currently in 
police custody in Russia.

“They got him out of Gyumri, he is not there anymore,” said Idite Lesom 
spokesman Ivan Chuviliaev.

Both Idite Lesom and an Armenian human rights group, the Helsinki Citizens’ 
Assembly (HCA), earlier condemned Setrakov’s detention in Armenia as illegal. 
The HCA leader, Artur Sakunts, appealed to Armenian prosecutors to clarify how 
Russian officers were able to arrest the man on Armenian territory. Sakunts also 
demanded that they prevent his extradition to Russia.

The Office of the Prosecutor-General said on Wednesday that Russian 
law-enforcement authorities had not asked it to track down, detain and extradite 
Setrakov. It claimed to have “no information” about his detention in Armenia. It 
thus remained unclear how the fugitive soldier was flown back to his country 
where he is now facing up to ten years in prison on desertion charges.

An HCA spokeswoman, Ani Chatinian, decried the prosecutors’ statement and 
accused the law-enforcement agency of inaction.

“In essence, Dmitry Setrakov was illegally transported to the Russian 
Federation, and Armenia signed the [guilty] verdict which will be given to him 
in Russia,” Chatinian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Setrakov is the first Russian soldier known to have fled to Armenia and been 
arrested there after refusing to take part in fighting in Ukraine.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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