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Armenia Insists On Conditions For Border Deal With Azerbaijan


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)

Armenia has set two conditions for embarking on a demarcation of its border with Azerbaijan proposed by Russia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Wednesday.

It emerged last week that Moscow has drafted an agreement on the creation of an Armenian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission tasked with delimiting and demarcating the border.

The proposal is aimed at ending a military standoff triggered by Azerbaijani troop movements at several sections of the frontier two weeks ago.

Azerbaijani troops reportedly advanced several kilometers into Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces. Pashinian said on May 20 that his government will sign the proposed deal if they withdraw from Armenian territory.

“Azerbaijani army units must pull back beyond our borders. No other option is discussed and can be discussed,” he insisted on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Armenian parliament, Pashinian revealed that Yerevan also wants Baku to release more than 100 Armenian prisoners remaining in Azerbaijani captivity over six months after Moscow helped to stop the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani side has not accepted these conditions so far, he said.

Baku says that its troops took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the border and did not cross into Armenia.

Armenian and Azerbaijani troops continue to face off at the contested border portions. An Armenian soldier was killed on Tuesday in what was the first shooting incident reported during the two-week standoff.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed on Wednesday that Armenian army units fired at its troops deployed along the border for the past three days. Armenian Defense Minister Vagharshak Harutiunian dismissed the claim as a ploy designed to “cover up” the killing of the Armenian soldier.

In a statement issued earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan also strongly denied the ceasefire violations alleged by Baku. It again threatened to use force to drive out the Azerbaijani forces remaining within Armenia’s borders.

Pashinian told lawmakers that Russia and the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are “urging us to resolve this issue by political means.” He said Harutiunian will meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow later this week for further talks on the continuing border crisis.

Immediately after the Azerbaijani advances Armenia formally asked Russia and the CSTO for military support. So far Moscow has not publicly sided with Yerevan in the dispute, offering instead to act as a mediator in the border demarcation process sought by it.

Pashinian insisted that the Russians are committed to defending Armenia against foreign aggression in line the CSTO statutes and bilateral Russian-Armenian treaties. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly assured him that “Armenia’s borders are a red line for Russia”

“The unfortunate fact is that Azerbaijan has crossed that red line and I think it’s impossible that Russia will not fulfill its contractual obligations,” added the prime minister.

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