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Putin, Pashinian Discuss Armenian-Azeri Transport Links


RUSSIA -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin (left to right) attend a trilateral meeting in Moscow, January 11, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Thursday to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the Armenian parliamentary elections and discuss Russian-backed plans to restore transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Kremlin reported that Putin “emphasized the importance of consistent implementation” of the Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and follow-up understandings reached by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in January.

“The Russian side will continue active mediation efforts to ensure stability in the region,” it said in a statement.

The Armenian government also said the two men discussed the implementation of those agreements. In that context, it said, Pashinian stressed the need for the release of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians still held in Azerbaijan.

Putin spoke with Pashinian one day after his phone call with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. According to a Kremlin statement, the call took place “at the initiative of the Azerbaijani side” and touched upon “practical aspects of the realization of the agreements” reached by Aliyev, Pashinian and Putin.

“Special attention was paid to intensifying work in a trilateral format on the restoration of economic links and transport routes in the South Caucasus,” added the statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov spoke by phone earlier on Wednesday.

The agreements call for the reopening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for commercial traffic. They specifically commit Armenia to opening rail and road links between Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan. For its part, Armenia should be able to use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia and Iran.

At their January 11 meeting in Moscow, Putin, Aliyev and Pashinian agreed to set up a trilateral working group tasked with working out practical modalities of establishing such transport links. The group co-headed by deputy prime ministers of the three states held several meetings in the following months.

The group has not met since Azerbaijani troops crossed several sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on May 12-14, triggering a continuing military standoff with Armenian forces.

“Given these border incidents, I don’t think it’s possible to constructively work on that [Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani] platform,” the group’s Armenian co-chair, Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian, said recently.

Grigorian’s Azerbaijani opposite number, Shahin Mustafayev, suggested earlier this week that the trilateral task force will resume its activities after a new Armenian government is formed as a result of the June 20 elections.

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