Armenia and Azerbaijan began under the auspices of the United States, Monday in Washington, delicate peace negotiations about the disputed enclave of Nagorny Karabakh.
The discussions, sponsored by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are expected to last until Thursday in the presence of the heads of diplomacy of the two countries, the Armenian Ararat Mirzoyan and the Azerbaijani Djeyhoun Baïramov. “We believe that peace is possible between these two countries. And that direct dialogue is key here” to resolve their differences, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters, refusing to comment. provide any details on the first day of discussions.
The two Caucasian countries clashed in two wars in the early 1990s and in 2020 for control of Nagorny Karabakh, a mountainous region mostly populated by Armenians that seceded from Azerbaijan three decades ago. Tensions, already high, redoubled when Baku announced on April 23 that it had set up a first road checkpoint at the entrance to the Lachin corridor, the only axis linking Armenia to the separatist enclave already subject to a blockade of several month that caused shortages and power cuts. Armenia considered this a violation of the ceasefire negotiated with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani activists, who had been blocking this Lachin corridor since mid-December, announced last Friday “the temporary suspension” of their action.
These negotiations under American mediation come a few days after a tour of the region last week by the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna. She urged Azerbaijan, a major gas exporter, to immediately restore “unhindered movement along the Lachin corridor”, a vital route in this enclave of Nagorny Karabakh, and said she believed in a peaceful settlement despite deep differences. between the belligerents. Mr. Blinken met Monday behind closed doors with the protagonists gathered in a conference center on behalf of former Secretary of State George Shultz, near the federal capital. He had already received them on Sunday evening for a “working dinner”.
A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday he expected “frank discussions.” “Our goal is to ensure that ministers sit down at the table and talk to each other” for several days, he added, in an attempt to achieve “a just and lasting peace. “.
The negotiations relate specifically to “an agreement to normalize relations” between the two countries, he further indicated, stressing that “all issues are discussed”. Mr. Blinken discussed US support for the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace process in separate conversations with their leaders over the weekend.
To Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday, he “expressed the deep concern of the United States over the establishment by Azerbaijan of a roadblock at the entrance to the Lachin corridor which could undermine efforts to build confidence in the peace process,” the State Department said in a statement.
Mr Blinken “stressed the importance of reopening the Lachin road to commercial and private vehicles as soon as possible”, the statement added. The day before, he had also spoken with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The head of American diplomacy has maintained contact at regular intervals with the leaders of the two countries. He has already participated in two trilateral meetings last November, then last February on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, without these discussions leading to an agreement.
For its part, Russia deployed in 2020 in Nagorny Karabakh a contingent of peacekeepers supposed to ensure circulation on the Lachin corridor, but its isolation on the international scene due to the war in Ukraine limits its room for maneuver. The United States and the European Union have thus established themselves as mediators in the normalization process between Baku and Yerevan.
This article is originally published on lorientlejour.com