The group dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has long been led by the United States, Russia and France. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on April 8 that Washington and Paris stopped cooperating with Moscow in that format following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. U.S. and French officials have not denied that.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said late on Thursday that the U.S. and the European Union stepped up their separate mediation efforts on Karabakh after “paralyzing” the Minsk Group co-chairs’ joint activities.
“Such coincidences are not accidental,” she said in written comments to the press posted on the ministry’s website.
In that context, Zakharova condemned the EU’s “shameless attempts to appropriate the subject of the well-known Russian-Azerbaijani-Armenian agreements” and possible negotiations on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty proposed by the Minsk Group co-chairs last year.
The agreements reached during and after the 2020 war in Karabakh commit Armenia and Azerbaijan to demarcating their border with Russia’s assistance and opening it to commerce. Zakharova stressed that Moscow will continue to seek their “consistent implementation.”
“At the same time we are determined to contribute in every possible way to the conclusion of a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” added the Russian official.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also made this clear in a joint statement with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian issued after their talks held near Moscow on Wednesday.
Zakharova hit out at the West shortly after the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, met with deputy prime ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for talks that focused on the planned opening of Armenian-Azerbaijani transport links
Klaar met with Pashinian and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Yerevan on Friday. According to the Armenian government, they discussed the implementation of agreements reached by Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at their trilateral meeting with European Council President Charles Michel held in Brussels on April 6. Those agreements also relate to the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord, transport links and border demarcation
Sargis Khandanian, an Armenian pro-government lawmaker, acknowledged on Friday that Russia’s heightened tensions with the U.S., France and other Western powers have created “additional difficulties” in the work of the Minsk Group.
“But we must note that all three parties have stressed the importance of the co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group,” he said. “The co-chairs separately visited Armenia recently.”
In their joint statement, Putin and Pashinian called for a continued use of “the potential and experience of the Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship” in the international peace efforts on Karabakh.
Arman Grigorian, an Armenian political scientist, downplayed this, saying that Moscow does not count on renewed joint mediation with Washington and Paris.
“When you look at that document you get the impression that Russia’s involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations seems to have gone beyond the format of the Minsk Group,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.