Putin commented on the aftermath of last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh and Russian efforts to bolster a shaky peace in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone during an annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club on Thursday.
“The main thing now is to finally resolve the situation on the [Armenian-Azerbaijani] border, and it’s impossible to do anything here without Russia’s participation,” he said. “We probably don’t need anyone except Russia and the two sides. Why? … Because the Russian army’s General Staff has maps showing the borders that existed between Soviet republics in Soviet times.”
Tensions have run high in recent months at several sections of the long border where Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory in mid-May. Armenia has repeatedly demanded their unconditional withdrawal. Azerbaijan maintains that its troops took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier.
Moscow proposed later in May that Yerevan and Baku set up a commission on border delimitation and demarcation. It offered to act as a mediator in such talks.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated at the time that the talks are conditional on an Azerbaijani withdrawal from Armenia’s “sovereign territory.” But he indicated in August that his government is ready to negotiate without any preconditions.
Baku has also expressed readiness for such negotiations. They have still not begun, however.
Putin, who brokered a ceasefire that stopped the Karabakh war last November, said that while Soviet military maps must serve as a basis of the talks the two conflicting sides should be ready for minor territorial swaps and other mutual concessions.
“There are things there that also require mutual compromises,” he said. “Something could be straightened [on the map] in some places and swapped in others.”
Pashinian has for months been facing Armenian opposition allegations that he has secretly agreed to cede major chunks of Armenian territory to Azerbaijan. The prime minister has categorically denied that.
Russia is already the sole international facilitator of ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations on opening transport links between the two South Caucasus foes. A Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani task force set up in January for that purpose held a fresh meeting in Moscow earlier this week.
Putin stressed on Thursday that Moscow remains committed to a “multilateral format” of achieving a broader normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. He said it is now trying to step up the mediating activities of the OSCE Minsk Group co-headed by Russia, France and the United States.