Azerbaijan to sign peace agreement with Armenia

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region may be moving towards a peace agreement, according to Azerbaijani officials. Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive in September resulted in the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to a mass exodus of over 100,000 people. The two countries have since accelerated talks on a peace agreement, aiming to stabilize relations and establish mutual recognition of borders.

Recent positive developments include the exchange of prisoners of war on December 13 and a joint statement, a rare occurrence without third-party mediation. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in St Petersburg on December 26 for bilateral talks, the first since the conflict’s mass exodus. The countries have exchanged seven drafts of a potential peace agreement, awaiting Armenia’s response to the latest proposals.

Elchin Amirbayov, the special ambassador to the Azerbaijani president, emphasized the need for a result-oriented approach at this critical negotiation stage. The draft agreement includes principles such as mutual respect for territorial integrity, rejection of territorial claims, adherence to the UN charter, and the opening of communication routes between the nations.

The Nagorno-Karabakh region, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, has been a focal point for geopolitical interests involving Turkey, Russia, Iran, the US, and the EU. The proposed “middle corridor,” a strategic transport route linking China to Europe, adds to the region’s significance. Russia’s military presence in Armenia and the complex geopolitical landscape have contributed to the challenges in reaching a resolution.

One of the key elements in the proposed agreement is the establishment of transportation links, addressing the unresolved issue of the border between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan. Azerbaijan seeks a dispute resolution mechanism and emphasizes the importance of the linkage between its main territory and the Nakhichevan exclave for national security and the middle corridor.

While progress is evident, potential obstacles remain, including the status of ethnic Armenians displaced in September, issues related to separatist rule, and Russia’s efforts to regain influence in the region. The recent meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders on Russian soil indicates the ongoing role of Russia in the negotiation process.

The peace agreement, if achieved, could mark a significant step towards resolving a long-standing conflict and shaping the future stability of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Despite positive strides toward a potential peace agreement, several unresolved issues and potential challenges persist in the Azerbaijan-Armenia negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh.

One of the notable concerns involves the fate of ethnic Armenians who were displaced during Azerbaijan’s offensive in September. While a joint statement and the exchange of prisoners indicate progress, the question of the right of return for displaced individuals remains a sensitive point. Additionally, the leader of Armenian separatists in Karabakh rescinded a previous decree ordering the dissolution of separatist institutions, raising questions about the region’s future governance.

Azerbaijan emphasizes the importance of recognizing the rights of Azerbaijanis who were previously evicted from their homes in Karabakh, seeking a balanced approach to address historical grievances on both sides.

The role of Russia adds another layer of complexity to the situation. Russia, a previous guarantor, has been working to regain influence in the region, especially after not intervening during Azerbaijan’s decisive assault in September. Russia views Pashinyan as pro-European, and tensions have risen, particularly as Pashinyan refused to participate in certain meetings of Russian-led regional bodies. The recent meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders on Russian soil highlights Russia’s continued interest in mediating the conflict.

While the negotiation process has reached a critical juncture, with seven drafts exchanged and awaiting Armenia’s response, the resolution of complex issues like border demarcation and the establishment of transportation links between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan remains challenging. The geopolitical landscape, with multiple external actors vying for influence, further complicates the path to a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement.

The ongoing public consultation until January 22 provides an opportunity for stakeholders to voice their opinions on the proposed peace agreement. The outcome will not only impact the immediate region but also contribute to the broader geopolitical dynamics in the South Caucasus. Achieving a balanced and sustainable agreement will require addressing historical grievances, ensuring the rights of displaced populations, and navigating the intricate web of geopolitical interests in the region.

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