Reports and warnings about a possible deal and meeting between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, specifically on the so-called demarcation and delimitation of borders, have gained momentum in the past week, with Armenia’s government racing to quash those accounts.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan on Saturday said that there are no meeting planned with Pashinyan and Aliyev, adding that proposals for various meetings in different formats are being discussed.
Hunanyan’s comments come in the wake of media reports claiming that Pashinyan, Aliyev and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in early November to sign another statement, this time about the final determination of borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The spokesperson categorically denied such reports saying that they were “obviously provocative and do not correspond to reality.”
One such report was published Friday in Alik Media authored by noted journalist Tatul Hakopyan, who citing unnamed diplomatic sources reported that the three leaders are poised to sign two documents, one of demarcation and elimination of borders, the other about the opening of communication links in the region.
Alik Media is owned by one time Pashinyan advisor Arsen Kharadyan, who left the prime minister’s first administration.
A similar report was also published by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, also claiming that a meeting between the three leaders will take place from November 8 to 9 and that issues of border demarcation are going to be determined.
“This process is complicated, and the [two] parties will decide, through the mediation of Russia, on the ‘roadmap’ to find a solution to this issue. A statement is also expected on the unblocking of transport communications in the region. This point is also mentioned in the trilateral statement signed by the three leaders in November last year,” RIA Novosti reported citing an unnamed source. November 9 is the one-anniversary of the signing of a statement by the three leaders, which put an end to military actions in Artsakh but forced Armenia to surrender territories in Armenia and Artsakh to Azerbaijan.
The Kremlin did not deny or confirm these reports. Its spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Saturday the if an agreement to hold a summit is reached, the Kremlin will publicize it due time.
Hunanyan, said that Pashinyan has repeatedly stated that Armenia is ready to resume high-level talks on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing mandate.
“At the same time, based on the statement of January 11, 2021, Armenia is involved in trilateral (Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan) working discussions on unblocking the region’s transport communications. Since May 2021, the withdrawal of units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces from the territory of the Republic of Armenia and the idea of a possible start of the process of delimitation and demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which is yet to be implemented, have also been discussed in a trilateral format,” Hunanyan said.
He also said that the other Minsk Group co-chairing countries—France and the United States—have expressed willingness to advise and assist in the border delimitation and demarcation process and the so-called opening of regional communications, essentially ceding the process to Russia, which, all along, has wanted to have a tight grip on the South Caucasus and the surrounding countries, including Iran and Turkey.
The foreign ministry’s categoric denial of a meeting and the defense ministry’s full throttle attack on Armenia’s Human Rights Defender who warned this week that Azerbaijani forces are fortifying their positions within Armenia’s Gegharkunik Province, paint a picture of a government scrambling to keep a lid on Armenia’s opaque foreign policy maneuvers that can have an existential impact on Armenia and Artsakh.
While Putin did not confirm a meeting in November, he did say on Thursday that Russia alone would solve the situation by emphasizing his will for Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish relations. He also touted a plan hatched by Ankara and Baku—known as the “3 + 3” scheme—to bring together Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Iran and Russia under one umbrella as a way to counter Western influences in the region.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Thursday referenced the “3 + 3” scheme and accused the U.S. of obstructing efforts for regional peace.
After Azerbaijani forces breached Armenia’s sovereign borders in May and advanced their positions in the Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces, Pashinyan said that he would negotiate on the aforementioned points only after Azerbaijan withdraws its forces from Armenia. Lately, however, Pashinyan has signaled that he was open to talks without any preconditions.
At the same time, Pashinyan is advancing his government’s agenda of “peace in the region,” which was approved by parliament by votes only from his party, and making overtures to Ankara for normalizing relations with Turkey, whose leader has pressed Yerevan for the unconditional recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, which includes Artsakh. It was only after Azerbaijani forces began blocking traffic on the Goris-Kapan highway and later taxing and arresting Iranian truck drivers that Pashinyan revealed that he had surrendered a 13-mile stretch of the highway to Azerbaijan back in December, creating a precedent for back-door deals and maneuvers.