Overchuk visited Yerevan to talk to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian about “how and from what the unblocking of roads should start.”
“We would like to discuss that with you and think about how we can move forward,” he told Pashinian at the start of their meeting.
Overchuk co-heads, together with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, a trilateral working group set up by the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian governments in January. The group has been discussing practical modalities of opening the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for commercial traffic in line with the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the war in Nagorno-Karabakh last November.
Overchuk said that Russian road construction experts have closely examined transport infrastructures of the two South Caucasus states and presented their findings to the task force.
“So we now have a very good understanding of what really exists on the ground, the state of roads,” he said. “Based on that knowledge … it seems to us that we are getting close to concrete decisions, which are first and foremost based on the notion that the countries will retain sovereignty over roads passing through their territory.”
The ceasefire agreement commits Armenia to opening rail and road links between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave. Armenia should be able, for its part, to use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia and Iran.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly claimed that the deal envisages a permanent land “corridor” that will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia’s Syunik province. Armenian leaders maintain, however, that the truce accord only calls for transport links between the nations.
“I have the impression that Azerbaijan is trying to impose its perceptions on the working group, and that is certainly unacceptable to us,” Pashinian said in his opening remarks at the meeting with Overchuk.
Pashinian also said Baku and Yerevan need to negotiate details of border controls for cargo transiting through each other’s territory. “We hope that concrete solutions will be found to these issues in the near future,” he said.
Overchuk arrived in Yerevan a week after Russian and Armenian media reports saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to host fresh talks between Aliyev and Pashinian. Aliqmedia.am claimed that the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders will sign two documents on the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and cross-border commercial traffic.