Russia Hosts First Azerbaijan-Armenia Talks Since Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Deal
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders on Monday, marking the first meeting since Russia brokered a peace deal that ended a six-week conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
As he sat down for talks with the two leaders at the Kremlin, Putin said the truce has been successfully implemented, laying the foundation for a fair settlement to the conflict.
The recent conflict that cost thousands of lives on both sides gained international attention after the Azerbaijani military began expanding into the region in late-September. Despite being recognized as Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Karabakh has been run by ethnic Armenians since 1994, when another Russia-brokered truce ended a six-year-long separatist war in the region. No peace deal was signed back then.
In November, Putin brought his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts together to sign a peace agreement. The new deal establishes that Azerbaijan will hold on to specific areas that it has taken during the most recent conflict, while Armenia agreed to hand over additional adjacent areas.
Azerbaijani leaders overwhelmingly saw the deal as a major triumph, with President Ilham Aliyev describing the agreement as of “historic importance.”
In Armenia, however, the deal was deeply criticized, sparking mass protests and calls for the resignation of the country’s prime minister. On the occasion, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the deal “incredibly painful both for me and both for our people,” but saw it as a necessary step to prevent Azerbaijan from overruling the region.
As Pashinyan left for Moscow on Monday, Armenian protesters tried to block his access to the airport. Police later dispersed them.
Since November, Russia has deployed around 2,000 peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh, who will be stationed in the region for at least five years. Putin has also indicated on Monday that the three countries will establish a working group to restore traffic links in the region.