Azerbaijani, Armenian Leaders Agree Peace Talks Push

Feb 17 2024

ADDS statements from Baku and Yerevan, Blinken-Aliyev talks

Armenia and Azerbaijan's leaders held direct talks in Munich on Saturday and agreed to push on with peace negotiations, Baku and Yerevan said, after a new spate of tension between the two Caucasus neighbours.

The bilateral between Armenia's Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev came after a three-way meeting along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said both sides pledged to resolve differences through peaceful means.

"The chancellor praised pledges from both sides today, to resolve differences in opinion and open questions exclusively through peaceful means and without the use of force," according to a statement issued by the German chancellery.

The promises to avoid conflict appeared to be a marked change in tone from Pashinyan's warning on Thursday that Azerbaijan was planning a "full-scale war".

On Tuesday, both sides accused the other of opening fire on their volatile border, in a skirmish Armenia said left four of its soldiers dead.

Tensions between the two countries have remained high since Baku re-captured the Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh last September in a lightning military offensive.

Confirming Saturday's bilateral, the Azerbaijani presidency said the leaders "discussed negotiations on a peace treaty between the two countries, the normalisation of relations, and the issue of border delimitation".

The ministries of foreign affairs had been tasked with organising followup meetings, it added in a statement.

Separately, the Armenian government said both sides "agreed to continue work on the peace treaty."

"The process of regulating Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and steps aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the region were discussed."

Yerevan is concerned that Azerbaijan, emboldened by its success in Karabakh, could invade Armenian territory in order to create a land bridge to its Nakhchivan enclave.

Aliyev, who won re-election this month, said in an inauguration speech Wednesday it was Armenia, not Azerbaijan, that had outstanding territorial claims.

Pashinyan and Aliyev previously said a peace agreement could have been signed by the end of last year, but internationally mediated peace talks have failed to yield a breakthrough.

In another bilateral meeting in Munich, Pashinyan told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday morning that there had been a "new escalation" with Azerbaijan, in reference to the latest skirmish.

In separate talks on the same day, Blinken and Aliyev "discussed efforts to achieve a durable peace agreement" between the Caucasus neighbours, said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Blinken reiterated US support for "a successful conclusion of those efforts, building on previous negotiations," he added.