The Armenian Foreign Ministry announced the on Thursday that Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan “postponed” the talks with Lavrov and Azerbaijan’s Jeyhun Bayramov, slated for Friday, because his top priority now is to help reopen the Lachin corridor.
“We, like you, learned about this refusal from a statement by the [ministry’s] press service,” Lavrov told reporters after holding separate talks with Bayramov in Moscow.
“No diplomatic channels, which are usually used in such cases, were used,” he said, adding that “this method of the Armenian side is raising questions.”
“Such incidents, which are inevitable in any conflict and which of course need to be considered and addressed promptly, will last longer and longer if one of the parties walks away from agreed rounds of negotiations after every such incident. This has never benefited anyone,” added Lavrov.
The sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia was blocked on December 12 by Azerbaijani protesters demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect Karabakh ore mines. The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have condemned the blockade as a gross violation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement that placed the Lachin corridor under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
Lavrov said that the peacekeepers are “working literally hourly to resolve the situation.” Moscow hopes to promptly restore traffic through the vital road and bridge the conflicting sides’ “differences on developing the region’s ore deposits,” he said.
In that regard, the Russian minister chided the Karabakh Armenians for not allowing Azerbaijani officials to visit and inspect Karabakh gold and copper mines earlier in December. He said that they had reached an agreement to that effect with Baku and the peacekeepers.
Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president responded to Lavrov’s criticism later in the day. He said the Azerbaijanis were denied access to the mining sites because they “did not meet conditions” set by Stepanakert beforehand. He did not reveal those conditions.
“Nevertheless, despite the Azerbaijani side’s violations [of the ceasefire agreement] Artsakh’s authorities are in a constructive mood and prepared to get involved, as a full-fledged negotiating party, in discussions on any issue relevant to Artsakh,” Harutiunian wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Mirzoyan spoke by phone with the U.S. and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the European Union’s special envoy to the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, he accused Azerbaijan of trying to trigger a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Karabakh and subject its Armenian population to “ethnic cleansing.”
Mirzoyan also urged the international community to take “meaningful steps” to get Baku to unconditionally lift the blockade.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Lavrov, Bayramov again claimed that the Azerbaijani protesters are not blocking the Karabakh highway.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian criticized Russia for not ending the blockade which is causing growing food and fuel shortages in Karabakh. Pashinian charged that both Baku and Moscow are not complying with the 2020 agreement guaranteeing free and safe passage through the corridor. Moscow rejected the accusations.