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Armenian-Azeri Border Standoff Continues After Fresh Talks


Armenia - A view of an area in Armenia's Syunik province where Armenian and Azerbaijani troops are locked in a border standoff, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)

Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian military officials announced no agreements after holding more talks over the weekend in a bid to end a military standoff at disputed sections of Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian did not comment on their results in his opening remarks at a meeting of Armenia’s Security Council held on Monday morning.

“The negotiations will continue on Wednesday,” he said. “The negotiations have one theme: Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenian territory.”

The weekend talks took place in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province where Azerbaijani troops reportedly advanced several kilometers into Armenian territory early on May 12. The Armenian military alleged similar Azerbaijani advances at two other sections of the long border.

Armen Khachatrian, an Armenian pro-government lawmaker representing a Syunik constituency, described the talks as “quite productive” but refused to go into details.

“The negotiations will continue. There are still issues,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Khachatrian confirmed reports that General Rustam Muradov, the commander of Russian peacekeeping troops deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh after last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war, personally participated in the negotiations.

According to Pashinian, the situation on the border remains largely unchanged even though some Azerbaijani soldiers have withdrawn from Armenian territory since May 14.

“This means that we must continue to activate mechanisms of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and continue to work on activating Russian-Armenian allied mechanisms,” he said.

Shortly after the Security Council meeting Pashinian wrote on his Facebook page that tensions at “some portions” of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier have risen in the last few hours due to increased “aggressiveness of Azerbaijani forces.” He did not elaborate.

Late last week Armenia formally asked both the CSTO and Russia to help it deal with the Azerbaijani incursions and restore its territorial integrity. It wants the Russian-led military alliance to invoke Article 2 of its founding treaty which requires the CSTO to discuss a collective response to grave security threats facing member states.

Armenia - Human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan talks to Armenian soldiers deployed in Syunik province, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)
Armenia - Human rights ombudsman Arman Tatoyan talks to Armenian soldiers deployed in Syunik province, May 14, 2021. (Photo by the Armenian Human Rights Defender's Office)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Moscow remains in “constant touch” with Yerevan and Baku and is making “energetic efforts to defuse the tensions and correct the situation.”

Azerbaijan has denied sending troops across the border and said its forces only took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described the Armenian appeal to the CSTO as “completely baseless.”

“There have been no armed clashes on the border, the situation is stable and negotiations are going on,” Aliyev was reported to say in a phone call with President Kasim-Zhomart Tokayev of CSTO member Kazakhstan.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said, for its part, that Baku and Yerevan should resolve the border crisis through “bilateral contacts.”

Pashinian countered, however, that the two South Caucasus states have no diplomatic relations and that they had agreed to demarcate and delimit their border in a “trilateral format” involving Russia.

The Armenian premier claimed late last week that Baku may be trying to “provoke a large-scale military clash” six months after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the war in Karabakh. He pointed to large-scale Azerbaijani military exercises that began on Sunday.

The border standoff has also prompted serious concern from the United States and France, which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group together with Russia. Both countries have urged Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from Armenia’s border areas.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian appeared to have discussed the border crisis in a phone call on Sunday. According to the U.S. State Department, they “spoke about their cooperation as OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries and emphasized the need for a long-term political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

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