Azerbaijani President and Armenian PM Shake Hands: A Step Toward Peace?

Hong Kong – Dec 26 2023

By: Momen Zellmi

In an unanticipated turn of events during an informal summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made a significant gesture, extending hands to each other. This handshake, simple yet profound, carries weight in a context of strained relations and unresolved issues, particularly in the wake of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The conflict, an intense six-week battle, concluded with a ceasefire orchestrated by Russia. However, the ceasefire, while halting immediate hostilities, left many issues hanging in the balance, keeping the diplomatic atmosphere between Azerbaijan and Armenia taut. It’s in these troubled waters that the handshake between the two leaders emerges, a potential beacon signaling a willingness to engage in dialogue.

Being an informal summit, the CIS provides a unique platform for leaders to engage in direct, less rigid discussions. This setup can sometimes pave the way for progress in diplomatic relations, as it allows for more relaxed, personal interactions. The handshake between President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan, while not necessarily indicating a breakthrough in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations, is a gesture that could be interpreted as a step towards more constructive engagement in the future.

While it’s crucial not to overstate the handshake’s significance, it’s equally vital not to dismiss it outright. The broader implications of this interaction are yet to unfold. Given the lingering tension from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the historical rivalry between the two nations, this handshake might just be the seed of a more conciliatory phase in Azerbaijani-Armenian relations. It could be the beginning of a dialogue that brings these two nations closer to resolving their differences and fostering peace in the region.