Michel said they also mapped out “next steps regarding the delimitation of the border” between the two South Caucasus states and made “concrete progress” on restoring a rail link between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave passing through Armenia.
In a statement to the press made after the “frank, open and result-oriented” talks in Brussels, he did not say whether Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev narrowed their differences on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku.
Pashinian’s press office likewise said nothing about that in its readout of the trilateral meeting that lasted for about four hours. It said only that Aliyev and Pashinian agreed to “continue the discussions” on the sidelines of a European summit in Moldova slated for June 1.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers made what the U.S. State Department described as “tangible progress” towards the peace treaty during marathon talks held outside Washington earlier this month.
A senior Armenian official spoke after those talks of lingering differences between Yerevan and Baku relating to Azerbaijani recognition of Armenia’s existing borders, an internationally supervised dialogue between Baku and Karabakh’s leadership as well as “international guarantees” for the sides’ compliance with their peace accord.
Michel said the two sides should keep up “the momentum” and “take decisive steps towards the signing” of the accord.
“The leaders confirmed their unequivocal commitment to the 1991 Almaty Declaration and respective territorial integrity of Armenia (29,800 square kilometers) and Azerbaijan (89,600 square kilometers),” he added in that regard.
Azerbaijan’s total Soviet-era area cited by Michel includes Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a further indication that Pashinian’s administration is ready to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh provided that Baku protects “the rights and security” of the territory’s ethnic Armenian population.
“We continued our discussions on the issue of the rights and security of Armenians living in the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast,” Michel said, calling for “transparent dialogue between Baku and this population.”
The president of the European Council, the EU’s top decision-making body, made no mention of Azerbaijan’s five-month blockade of Karabakh’s sole land link with Armenia and the outside world. Baku tightened the blockade when it set up a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor late last month.
Pashinian made clear earlier in April that his administration unequivocally recognizes Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Aliyev demanded that Armenia go farther and officially declare that “Karabakh is Azerbaijan.”
Karabakh’s leadership as well as the Armenian opposition have repeatedly denounced Pashinian’s public pronouncements on the conflict with Azerbaijan. In a joint statement issued on April 19, the five political groups represented in the Karabakh parliament again accused Pashinian of undermining the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination which was for decades supported by the U.S., French and Russian mediators.