Putin also expressed hope that the United States will assist Russia in its efforts to get the conflicting parties to respect a Russian-mediated ceasefire agreement.
“The foreign ministers of both countries [Armenia and Azerbaijan] visited us again,” he told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club. “They are meeting in Washington on October 23. I expect our American partners to act in concert with us and assist in the settlement. Let’s hope for the better.”
“I would very much like this compromise to be found,” he said. “As you know, I remain in close contact with President [Ilham] Aliyev and Prime Minister [Nikol] Pashinian. I talk to them by phone for several times a day. Our foreign ministers, defense ministers and heads of security services are also in constant touch.”
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov are scheduled to hold separate talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday. They separately met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday. No concrete understandings between the two sides were announced as a result.
Russia is understood to be coordinating its peace efforts with the U.S. and France, the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The three nations have repeatedly issued joint statements calling for an immediate end to the hostilities.
“All participants of the negotiating process sincerely want the situation to be settled but nobody is more interested in that than Russia,” said Putin. He also insisted that Moscow is not siding with Armenia or Azerbaijan in the conflict.
“Russia has always had special relations with Armenia,” he said. “But we have always had special relations with Azerbaijan as well. More than two million Armenians and about two million Azerbaijanis live in Russia … Therefore, Armenia and Azerbaijan are equal partners for us.”
Putin noted at the same time “brutal crimes against the Armenian people” committed at the start of the Karabakh conflict in 1988.
“This conflict erupted not just as an interstate conflict and a fight for territory. It started with an ethnic confrontation. Unfortunately, the fact is that brutal crimes against the Armenian people were committed in [the Azerbaijani city of] Sumgait and then in Nagorno-Karabakh. We must take all this into account.”
Meanwhile, Pashinian said on Thursday that Armenia supports the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces in the conflict zone. In an interview with the Interfax news agency, he described that as a “compromise variant” that should also be accepted by Baku because “Russia has good relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
In a video address to his nation on Wednesday, the Armenian prime minister praised Moscow for “doing its best” to halt the hostilities and revive the Karabakh peace process. But he said he does not see a “diplomatic solution” to the crisis now because of what he described as Azerbaijan’s efforts to achieve a military victory.
Baku denounced Pashinian’s remarks and insisted that its position on the conflict’s resolution is “constructive.”