In the meantime, he stressed, the disputed territory will be protected by Russian peacekeeping forces deployed there after a Moscow-brokered agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war on November 10.
“Precisely because the problem of the status is so thorny it was decided by the three leaders [of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia] to circumvent and leave it to the future,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. “The [Russian, U.S. and French] co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group must deal with this as well. They have resumed their contacts with the parties and are going to visit the region again.”
He suggested that the return to normality and confidence-building measures in the conflict zone will eventually facilitate an agreement on the main sticking point.
Speaking after his talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that Karabakh’s status is among “many issues” that have yet to be settled by the conflicting sides. Yerevan maintains that Karabakh’s population must be able to exercise its right to self-determination in line peace proposals made by the Russian, U.S. and French mediators.
By contrast, Aliyev again said after the Moscow talks that the six-week war, which resulted in sweeping Azerbaijani territorial gains, essentially resolved the long-running conflict.
Earlier this month, Aliyev demanded that Armenian officials stop visiting Karabakh without Baku’s permission. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian’s recent trip to Stepanakert violated the ceasefire agreement.
Yerevan rejected those claims as “completely baseless.” Lavrov also dismissed them, arguing that the agreement brokered by Putin provides for a land corridor between Armenia and Karabakh, which is also guarded by the Russian peacekeepers.
“If we agree … that there must be a link between the Armenians of Karabakh and Armenia then I see no reason why contacts carried out at that level should be hampered,” he said. “Armenian officials are involved in the provision of humanitarian assistance to Karabakh which does not cause negative emotions in Baku.”
Lavrov stressed at the same time that Armenian leaders should avoid making “emotional” statements when visiting Karabakh. He chided them for making such statements before the war.