Lazy eyes listen
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev declared on Thursday in Moscow that they are ready to settle their 30-year conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.
During a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Council convened by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders confirmed their willingness to normalise relations based on “mutual recognition of territorial integrity,” as Aliyev and Pashinyan put it.
Putin stated that he is “very pleased” that the two former Soviet republics appear to have reached an agreement, “including on transportation communications.” This appeared to be a reference to Azerbaijan’s access to Nakhichevan region, which lies between Armenia and Turkey.
Pashinyan acknowledged that the two nations were “making good progress in settling our relations” based on mutual recognition, but he objected to Aliyev’s use of the word “Zangerzur corridor,” saying it may be seen as a claim on Armenian land.
The Nagorno-Karabakh agreement “speaks of only one corridor, Lachin, which needs to be under Russian peacekeepers’ control but has sadly been illegally blockaded by Azerbaijan,” Pashinyan added. “However, I would like to reaffirm Armenia’s willingness to unblock all transport and economic connections, as well as roads that pass through Armenian territory.”
“The word ‘corridor’ is not an encroachment on someone’s territory,” Aliyev responded, emphasising that one would have to “try very hard or have a very rich imagination” to understand his words as territorial ambitions, which Azerbaijan lacks. He noted that the fact that Armenia has “officially recognised Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan” provides a significant opportunity to strike a peace agreement.
Nagorno-Karabakh was a self-governing area within Soviet Azerbaijan with an ethnic Armenian majority. It seceded from Azerbaijan before Baku proclaimed independence from the Soviet Union, sparking an ethnic struggle that killed thousands of lives before being halted by a 1994 agreement.
The most recent flare-up occurred in 2020, when Azerbaijani troops advanced to cut the major road connecting Karabakh and Armenia proper. Russia intervened to arrange a ceasefire, which has largely held since.
Before the Moscow summit, Pashinyan indicated that Armenia was willing to cede Karabakh, but that he would seek international guarantees for the remaining ethnic Armenians there. He also suggested that Yerevan might leave the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), implying that the Russian-led military alliance had failed to safeguard Armenia. Pashinyan has taken this stance since Nancy Pelosi, the then-Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, visited Yerevan in September 2022.