Russia accuses Armenia of spoiling peace talks with Azerbaijan - M5 Dergi
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Russia accuses Armenia of spoiling peace talks with Azerbaijan

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Russia is reportedly blaming its ally Armenia for the collapse of peace negotiations with Azerbaijan over the region of Karabakh in another sign of the recent friction between Moscow and Yerevan over renewed tensions in the South Caucasus.

Former Soviet republics Armenia and Azerbaijan have for months been in talks to broker a peace deal over Karabakh, a source of a decadeslong conflict between the two neighbors. The territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but was illegally occupied by Armenia for three decades until 2020.

Baku and Yerevan fought two wars over the territory in the 1990s and again in the autumn of 2020 when six weeks of particularly intense clashes claimed over 6,500 lives before a Russian-brokered truce ended the hostilities.

Under the 2020 deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory, and Russia stationed a force of 2,000 peacekeepers in the region to oversee a fragile truce.

At the end of 2022, tensions flared up again between the rival nations, this time involving the blockade of the Lachin Corridor in Karabakh where since mid-December, a group of Azerbaijani activists has been protesting illegal mining that has been causing environmental damage in the region. The protests erupted after representatives of Azerbaijan attempting to visit the areas where mineral resources are being illegally exploited were barred access to the area.

Yerevan has been accusing Azerbaijan of creating a “humanitarian catastrophe” by purposefully blocking the only road linking Armenia to the region, which houses thousands of Armenians. It also slammed the Russian peacekeeping contingent for “failing to fulfill its purpose of clearing the corridor.”

Baku has consistently rejected Yerevan’s accusations, with Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stressing that obstacles to the use of the road are created by people who introduced themselves as “the leaders of local Armenians” and claims that the protests on the Lachin road posed the threat of a humanitarian crisis to the local Armenian population are “baseless.”

In a statement on Thursday, Russia blamed Armenia for canceling peace talks between the two sides and called on Yerevan to come back to the negotiating table.

“It is difficult to assess Yerevan’s position when their official statements differ so significantly,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She said Yerevan’s decision to pull out of peace talks scheduled last December in Moscow “prevented us from discussing the peace treaty.” adding: “If our Armenian partners are really interested in solving these problems… then instead of engaging in scholasticism, it is necessary to continue working together.”

Officials in Yerevan have grown increasingly angry at Russia – formally an ally through a mutual self-defense treaty – for not doing more to end the blockade. Armenia hosts a Russian military base and Moscow has been the country’s top ally and sponsor. However, the Kremlin also has sought to maintain warm ties with oil-rich Azerbaijan.

In a phone call with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in late December, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for “strict adherence to all the provisions of the statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia dated Nov. 9, 2020.”

Noting that “provocations” against Russian peacekeepers were “unacceptable” and would “harm” the process of Azerbaijani-Armenian normalization, Moscow assured it would continue taking “consistent steps to resolve the situation.”

The peace deal signed in 2020 saw Russia deploying a peacekeeping contingent to the region and Azerbaijan agreeing to ensure free movement along the Lachin Corridor. Armenia claims Azerbaijan is not abiding by that agreement and wants Russian peacekeepers to do more to dislodge the protesters. Moscow has said it is doing everything it can to help.

Moreover, Yerevan called off a military drill with Moscow that would take place in Armenia this year, saying they would be “inappropriate in the current situation.”

After the Russian peacekeepers’ five-year mandate is over, Armenia could invite U.N. peacekeepers to come in “if Russia fails to fulfill its function to ensure security for the population of the Karabakh region,” Pashinian separately claimed earlier this week.

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