The three leaders met in Moscow two months after Putin brokered an Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting that lasted for about four hours, they said the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani governments will set up a joint “working group” that will deal with practical modalities of restoring transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
According to the statement, the group will submit by March 1 a timetable of “measures envisaging the restoration and construction of new transport infrastructure facilities” in line with the November 9 ceasefire deal. The group is to comprise teams of experts who will calculate the cost of these projects.
“I am confident that the realization of these understandings will benefit both the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples, the region as a whole and, therefore, the interests of the Russian Federation,” Putin said at a joint news briefing with Aliyev and Pashinian held after the talks.
“This is an area which could give a lot of dynamism to the region’s development and reinforce security because the opening of transport links meets the interests of the people of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and our neighbors,” Aliyev said, for his part.
The truce agreement specifically commits Yerevan to opening rail and road links between the Nakhichevan exclave and the rest of Azerbaijan that will presumably pass through southeastern Armenia. The Armenian government has stressed that Armenia will be able, for its part, to use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia and Iran.
Pashinian indicated in the run-up to the Moscow talks that the opening of the transport links will be conditional on Baku releasing dozens of Armenians remaining in Azerbaijani captivity and facilitating the ongoing search for other soldiers and civilians who went missing during the six-week war.
“Unfortunately, we did not manage today to solve the issue of prisoners of war,” Pashinian told the press after the talks.
He said that Baku is still not fully complying with another provision of the truce agreement that calls for the exchange of all prisoners of war and civilians held by the conflicting sides. “I hope that we will succeed in finding a concrete solution very soon,” added the Armenian premier.
The November 9 agreement locked in sweeping territorial gains made by Azerbaijan during the war that killed thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. It also led to the Armenian withdrawal from four other districts around Karabakh.
In his opening remarks at the talks, Putin noted with satisfaction that the ceasefire is holding thanks to 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops deployed in Karabakh. This, he said, is “creating necessary prerequisites for a long-term and full-fledged resolution” of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
Pashinian cautioned that the conflicting parties continue to disagree on “many issues,” including the main bone of contention: the status of Karabakh.