Moscow is viewed as vying for control over Azerbaijani-Armenian peace talks with EU

As a regional power, Russia retains a major impact on the
Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and seems reluctant to abandon
influencing post-Soviet conflicts, Azernews reports.

However, amid the ongoing Ukraine war, Russia’s influence is
dwindling down, and the European Union is viewed as an alternative
platform for making peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia and
succeeding in finding a final solution to the conflict.

After Azerbaijan’s brilliant win in the 44-day second Karabakh
war, Azerbaijan is resolutely advancing towards the demarcation of
the borders and the signing of a peace deal with Armenia with the
mediation of European Council President Charles Michel and the
parties have already managed to hold three meetings though real
success has not yet been registered.

Though Moscow was viewed as the only solid platform for Baku and
Yerevan to hold meetings, now the European Union also acts as a
mediator. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani
President Ilham Aliyev met in Brussels in early April on the
initiative of EU Council President Charles Michel. After the
4.5-hour negotiation, the leaders agreed on instructing their
foreign ministers to work on a peace agreement, as well as
establish a bilateral commission to delimit and secure the border
by the end of April.

The active involvement of the EU in the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace
talks has also been evaluated by the Azerbaijani President Ilham
Aliyev as a “turning point in the process”.

However, it seems that Russia attempts to take the EU’s
initiative in the development of the peace negotiations between
Armenia and Azerbaijan and more often refers to the trilateral
statements signed between Baku, Yerevan, and Moscow rather than the
agreement achieved in Brussels.

In an interview with the TASS news agency, Russian Deputy
Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko again highlighted Russia’s role in
peace talks in line with the trilateral statements, signed by the
parties following the 44-day war in 2020.

“We continue to work systematically at all levels to implement
the November 9, 2020, January 11, and November 26, 2021, trilateral
agreements at the highest level. The leaders are in constant
contact. We do not rule out the organization of a face-to-face
meeting should the need arise,” Rudenko said.

He went back to recall that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey
Lavrov discussed a whole range of issues related to the
normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan during his
talks with colleagues from Azerbaijan and Armenia on the margins of
the CIS Ministerial Council, on May 12, in Dushanbe.

Russia favors reinstating the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been
tasked with resolving the conflict since 1992 and has not produced
real progress.

Following the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the
Minsk Group practically seized functioning – Azerbaijan has openly
refused to cooperate with this organization, and Yerevan’s attempts
to renew the talks in this context have failed. Although the three
co-chairs verbally supported the format, it lost its significance
after Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the
United States and France of abandoning the format. Washington and
Paris have denied the allegations, but the current level of
relations between NATO and Russia is unlikely to make the Minsk
Group more relevant.

It is good that the Minsk Group does not operate. The co-chairs,
like the goose, cancer, and fish in the famous illustration, were
steering the discussions in opposite ways. For the first time in 30
years, direct conversations are possible between the sides,
Azerbaijani political analyst Shahin Rzayev said.

He also noted that the foreign ministers of the two countries
had a telephone conversation for the first time in a long time, and
Armenian Security Council Secretary Armenia Armen Grigoryan and
Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev met in Brussels to
discuss the future peace agreement.

President Ilham Aliyev also wants meetings without mediators,
saying that Azerbaijan and Armenia should clarify the relations
between themselves, and whoever wants to help let him do so.

Aliyev has repeatedly criticized the Minsk Group, saying:
“Before the Second Karabakh War [2020], the Minsk Group operated
for 28 years. During these years, the co-chairs visited Azerbaijan
and Armenia hundreds of times. The result is obvious – zero.”

On the other hand, Russia is uninterested in the involvement of
non-regional countries in the South Caucasus and promotes the
regional “3+3” consultation platform (that includes Azerbaijan,
Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, and Turkey) rather than third
powers.

Rudenko described the regional consultative platform “3+3”,
established in December 2021, as a popular and promising mechanism
for regional cooperation.

“We plan to actively use it to develop interaction between the
South Caucasus countries and their neighbors. The logic of such
cooperation presupposes collective consideration of issues of
common interest, which do not exacerbate political differences and
facilitate mutual trust. We are talking, above all, about the
search for answers to regional challenges and the resolution of
emerging problems by the regions themselves,” Rudenko said.

According to him, the involvement of all the regional countries
creates favorable conditions for establishing a dialogue, for
example, between Yerevan and Baku, Yerevan and Ankara through the
implementation of mutually beneficial projects in the fields of
trade, energy, industry, innovative technologies, and
infrastructure modernization. Additional opportunities for
cooperation between the South Caucasus countries and their
neighbors are associated with the disclosure of the region’s
transit potential, and interaction in the fight against new
challenges and threats.

“At this stage, we are preparing for the second meeting of the
format. We expect to hold it by the end of the first half of the
year. As for the unblocking of transport and economic ties, a
trilateral working group co-chaired by the Deputy Prime Ministers
of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia is working on this issue. A lot
of work has been done in this area. We are working towards the
adoption of a specific decision as soon as possible, which will
allow us to start implementing specific projects in the region,”
Rudenko added.

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