Moscow Says Karabakh Status ‘Intentionally’ Left Out at Talks, Wants to ‘Close POW Issue’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a virtual press conference on Jan. 18
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a virtual press conference on Jan. 18

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a virtual press conference on Jan. 18

  • Russia’s Foreign Minister Says Armenia Agreed to Postpone Karabakh Status Talks, Reiterating that Armenia Itself Hasn’t Recognize Karabakh
  • Counters Aliyev Assertion that Travel be Restricted to Karabakh
    Says Russia Has not Intention of Colonizing Karabakh

A decision on the status of Karabakh was intentionally left out during negotiations over the November 9 agreement and Armenia’s leader agreed to delaying those discussions, said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference on Monday.

Lavrov said that there are conflicting views about Karabakh’s status between Yerevan and Baku and “precisely because the problem of the status is so thorny it was decided by the three leaders [of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia] to circumvent and leave it to the future.”

Lavrov said that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs also have to work on this issue and that they are already in contact with the sides and are planning to visit the region. Lavrov said the sooner Yerevan and Baku’s express willingness to resolve the issue of co-existence between ethnic and religious communities the sooner the Karabakh status issue will be solved.

Russia’s foreign minister also touched on views being expressed by some circles that are opposing to make Karabakh a “federal subject of Russia.” He called such a proposal “outlandish,” but, once again, emphasized that the Karabakh’s independence has not even been recognized by Armenia itself.

“We don’t have such intention, we are moving forward from the point of view that such issues should be resolved between Armenia and Azerbaijan for preserving security in the region,” said Lavrov.

Return of POWs
Lavrov made it clear that Moscow wants to close the issue of return of prisoners of war and captives, saying that it was one of the points in the November 9 agreement.

“The issue of POWs was part of lengthy discussions when the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan arrived in Moscow on January 11,” said Lavrov saying that Armenia had more concerns about the matter, while Azerbaijan has claimed that it has returned all POWs.

“Initially, Armenians had more concerns connected with the issue of POWs. Firstly, the sides needed to compile a list of persons who have been declared missing. Azerbaijan says it has submitted the lists, and there were not many [names], and everyone has been returned, although not immediately. Other problems from the Azerbaijani side connected with the missing in action, the POWs, detained persons, have not emerged,” explained Lavrov. He claimed that Armenia has not provided completed lists.

“But now the most important issue is the one which emerged in Hadrut in December. Armenian servicemen were sent there and most of them were captured—a total of 62 soldiers. The Azerbaijani side has announced that since these people were sent to that region after the ceasefire, they should be viewed as a separate category. We—I and President Putin—in any case, propose to continue discussing this issue in order to close it and be guided by the ‘all for all’ principle,” said Lavrov.

The Russian foreign minister, of course, did not comment on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s statement last week, in which he threatened to prosecute the said POWs, calling them terrorists.

Lavrov said that he has spoke with to Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ara Aivazyan about clarifying the final lists of POWs, however, he said it turns out that the number of POWs is much higher than 62.

“At the moment the military of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are checking the lists name by name to understand where that people are,” Lavrov said.

Armenia-Karabakh Communication
“The territory where the peacekeeping mission is deployed is the area of responsibility of the peacekeeping contingent. We are moving forward with this understanding in our discussions with Yerevan and Baku. Now, the details on organizing transport communication and humanitarian assistance are being developed,” Lavrov said.

At no point during the decades of negotiations was there an issue of cutting off Armenia and Karabakh (Artsakh) from one another, said Lavrov in response to a question referencing Aliyev’s belligerent announcement last week when he blasted Aivazyan for visiting Stepanakert and insisted that any individual visiting Karabakh must receive permission from Azerbaijan

“In all agreements—first and foremost the November 9 agreement—all the sides have been on record consenting communication between Armenia and Karabakh through the Lachin corridor, which is under the control of the Russian peacekeepers,” said Lavrov.

“No one has ever rejected Armenia’s communication with Karabakh. The issue of cutting off Armenia and Karabakh from one another was never voiced during the negotiations that have gone on for decades. And that is why the Lachin corridor, as a concept, was not rejected by any party,” said Lavrov.

“Just like in the past, it [travel to Karabakh], it is subject to the consent by the sides, including the consent of our Azerbaijani neighbors. And just like this, a reliable and permanent communication will be established between the western regions of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. This is stipulated in the trilateral statement. If we agree – and everyone does agree – that communication between the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia must exist, I do not see reasons for obstructing the contacts at any level,” Lavrov said.

Government officials of Armenia are involved in the process of providing humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabakh, which has not been opposed by Azerbaijan, said Lavrov, adding that it would be strange if it were otherwise.

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