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Russian Ministers Visit Armenia, Discuss Karabakh


Armenia -- Senior Armenian and Russian government officials meet in Yerevan, November 21, 2020.

Two high-level Russian government delegations visited Yerevan on Saturday to discuss with Armenia’s leaders bilateral ties and the implementation of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian held separate talks with the delegations headed by Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Shoigu, Lavrov, and other visiting Russian government members also met separately with their Armenian counterparts.

Lavrov’s delegation comprised Russia’s Deputy Prime Ministers Alexei Overchuk and Alexei Novak as well as Health Minister Mikhail Murashko and a senior official from the Federal Security Service.

The Russian officials dispatched by President Vladimir Putin were due to proceed to Baku for similar negotiations with Azerbaijani leadership. Shoigu met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev later on Saturday.

“Our key task is to prevent bloodshed [in the Karabakh conflict zone] … and we certainly intend to accomplish it,” Shoigu told Pashinian at the start of their encounter. “Besides, we want to discuss issues relating to the further presence and activities of our peacekeepers [deployed in Karabakh.]”

Shoigu said Russian-Armenian military cooperation will also be on the agenda. “We have arrived with a big program and hope to implement it,” he added.

“We hope to be able to deepen our cooperation with the Russian Federation, including in the security and military-technical areas,” Pashinian said. He spoke of a “new military-political situation in our region” that has emerged as a result of the six-week Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

“I think that we need to take a new look at our strategic vision in the near-term and strategic context,” the Armenian leader said at the ensuing meeting with the delegation headed by Lavrov.

He also thanked Moscow for what he described as Russian assistance provided to Armenia during the war and ongoing humanitarian efforts in Karabakh.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- A Russian peacekeeper patrols at the check point outside Askeran, November 20, 2020
NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- A Russian peacekeeper patrols at the check point outside Askeran, November 20, 2020

“We reaffirm our support for the brotherly Armenian people,” Lavrov said for his part. He pointed to the Russian government’s decision to set up the Interagency Center for Humanitarian Reaction tasked with facilitating the return of ethnic Armenian refugees to Karabakh and reconstruction of the region’s civilian infrastructure.

Putin praised the Russian peacekeeping operation envisaged by the November 10 accord when he discussed the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone with Lavrov, Shoigu and other officials on Friday.

“Our troops are carrying out effective control of the ceasefire regime which is observed by both sides,” said the Russian president. “On the whole the situation has stabilized.”

Pashinian similarly commended the Russian peacekeepers for “ensuring the security of Karabakh’s residents.”

“But there are still unresolved issues,” he told Lavrov at a one-on-one meeting held early in the afternoon. “How are we going to ensure that residents of several [Karabakh] districts exercise their right to return home? Who and how will guarantee the security of our compatriots?”

Speaking to journalists after his talks in Yerevan, Lavrov said the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to fully implementing the Armenian-Azerbaijani deal brokered by Putin.

“It was unanimously emphasized that attempts to cast doubt on that statement not only inside the country but also abroad are unacceptable,” he said.

The Russian foreign minister appeared to refer to Armenian opposition groups holding street protests in Yerevan against the terms of the ceasefire condemned by them as a sellout. Some opposition leaders have demanded changes in the deal that formalized significant territorial losses suffered by the Armenian side.

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