The Armenia-Azerbaijan Diplomatic Dance Continues

Feb 21 2024

  • Pashinyan and Aliyev met in Munich, expressing satisfaction but providing few details on a way forward.
  • The meeting follows recent border clashes and Azerbaijan's demand for Armenia to revise its constitution regarding Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • Disagreement persists over mediation preferences and key components of a peace treaty, including border delimitation and the opening of transport links.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met in Munich on February 17 with the mediation of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

According to Azerbaijan's APA news agency, Scholz left the room at some point and the meeting continued in bilateral format. 

Afterwards, the sides expressed satisfaction with the meeting but offered few specifics on a way forward. 

It was the first meeting between the two leaders since last July, though they did have a brief encounter at a CIS summit in December. 

One of the main reasons for their failure to meet has been disagreement over who should mediate, particularly since Azerbaijan's seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh in September and the exodus of the region's Armenian population. 

Armenia has favored mediation by the EU and U.S. while Azerbaijan first expressed preference for authoritarian regional powers Russia and Turkey, and then began rejecting all outside mediation

The sides have met in bilateral format several times, however, to discuss border delimitation in November and agree a prisoner exchange in December.

Armenia has not explicitly rejected bilateral talks on a comprehensive peace deal, though its preference for Western mediation is evident as it seeks closer ties with the EU and U.S. and attempts to move away from its traditional strategic partner Russia. 

The Aliyev-Pashinyan-Scholz meeting took place just four days after Azerbaijan killed four Armenian soldiers in what it called a "revenge operation" for the wounding of an Azerbaijani serviceman. 

And the previous day, February 16, Pashinyan had said that his government's "analysis" showed that Azerbaijan was preparing for a full-scale war

After the meeting, on February 18, Pashinyan said the two countries' foreign ministers would meet soon for peace talks. It is not clear whether or not any mediators will be present.

Aliyev, meanwhile, called his meeting with Pashinyan "constructive and useful." He declared that there is "de facto peace in the region" and expressed readiness to sign a peace treaty. 

At the same time, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry in a February 18 statement reiterated Baku's demand that Armenia revise its constitution and other laws to remove all reference to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Following the Munich meeting, Olaf Scholz stated that the sides agreed to resolve their differences "without violence." No details about any specific agreements were made public. The meeting took place within the framework of the Munich Security Conference. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Aliyev and Pashinyan separately, expressing support for the peace process. 

While the two countries' leaders maintain that the main principles of the peace treaty have been agreed, the sides voice disagreement over almost all of the parts of the deal, including the opening of the transport links and border delimitation/demarcation. 

The mentioned principles include Armenia and Azerbaijan recognizing each other's territorial integrity, with the latest USSR and Almaty declaration maps being used for the demarcation of the borders and opening of the regional infrastructure based on the respective country's legislation and jurisdiction. Baku, however, demands a corridor through Armenia connecting mainland Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan to be controlled by Russian border troops and without Armenian customs or border checks.