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Armenian Official Sees Progress In Talks On Transport Links With Azerbaijan


Armenia -- Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian at a news conference in Yerevan, March 30, 2020.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have narrowed their differences on planned transport links between the two countries during ongoing negotiations mediated by Russia, according to Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian.

A Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani commission dealing with the matter met twice in Russia earlier this month after a six-month hiatus.

Grigorian, who co-chairs the commission along with his Azerbaijani and Russian counterparts, described its activities as “constructive” in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency published late on Tuesday.

“It’s certainly difficult work but I must note that the parties manage to bring closer their positions on many issues of border and customs control as well as safe passage of citizens, vehicles and cargo through roads and railways in the territory of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.

Grigorian added that “expert subgroups” formed by the three governments are continuing to work on practical modalities of the transport links envisaged by the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh. He did not say when Baku and Yerevan could reach a final agreement.

Grigorian’s remarks contrasted with what Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said during a virtual news conference on Monday. He claimed that Baku has rejected a draft agreement on the construction of a railway that will connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through Armenia.

“The draft document was presented by the Russian co-chair of the trilateral commission, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk,” he said. “The Armenian side expressed readiness to sign the document while the Azerbaijani side refused that agreement.”

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly demanded an exterritorial “corridor” for Nakhichevan that would exempt travellers and cargo from Armenian border controls. On June 16, Aliyev implicitly threatened to resort to military action if the Armenian side continues to oppose such an overland link.

Armenian leaders maintain that Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Russia and the European Union call for only conventional transport links between the two South Caucasus states.

Visiting Yerevan on June 9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that Armenia will control the planned road and railway that will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan. Lavrov said the Armenian side will only simplify border crossing procedures. Baku, Moscow and Yerevan are now finalizing a deal on such a border control regime, he said.

The most recent meeting of the Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani commission took place in Saint Petersburg on June 20.

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