The talks of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Kremlin on the topic of Nagorno-Karabakh took about four hours and proved to be productive. It was agreed to create a working group at the level of deputy prime ministers of the three countries, which will focus on establishing transport and economic ties in the region.
The first meeting of the new structure will be held in January, and a list of specific projects should be ready by March.
Both Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrived in Moscow on Monday. Vladimir Putin met them in the representative office of the first building of the Kremlin. The Russian President warmly welcomed his colleagues, exchanging handshakes and hugs with both Aliyev and Pashinyan in turn. The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, sitting down at the negotiating table in front of Putin, shook hands with each other remotely.
Prerequisites for a full settlement
The talks themselves, with the exception of Putin's opening remarks, were held behind closed doors.
The Russian leader, opening the meeting, expressed gratitude to Aliyev and Pashinyan for coming to Moscow and for the positive perception of the mediation efforts taken by the Russian side for a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. He noted that Russia has always sought to follow the key developments achieved in the OSCE Minsk Group, and continues to regularly check its actions with other co-chair countries in this format (the United States and France).
The head of the Russian state stated that the agreements reached on November 9 on Nagorno-Karabakh are "consistently implemented". According to Putin, this "creates the necessary prerequisites for a long-term and full-scale settlement of the long-standing conflict on a fair basis, in the interests of both the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples." The Russian President mentioned the deployment of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh and the creation of an effective system to ensure compliance with the ceasefire regime.
"Now the situation in the region is calm," the Russian leader stressed. He also noted that since November 14, more than 48 thousand people have already returned to Karabakh and with the mediation of Russia, prisoners and bodies of the dead were exchanged. Putin also called successful the work of the international center for humanitarian response, which is engaged in the establishment of normal life in settlements, reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure, protection of historical, religious and cultural monuments, restoration of energy and heat supply. The President of the Russian Federation announced that Russia in the conflict zone has already delivered more than 800 tons of materials, and all - over 1.5 million tons of humanitarian cargo, cleared over 479 hectares of the territory.
The Russian leader stressed that the task of opening borders and unblocking economic, trade and transport ties in the region deserves special attention.
New working group
In a speech to the media following the talks, the Russian president called the meeting "extremely important and useful." According to Putin, a working group headed by the Deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia will be created to develop infrastructure projects and organize concrete steps to establish economic ties in the region.
This decision is reflected in a joint written statement of the three leaders. As indicated in the document, the working group will hold its first meeting until January 30, 2021, and will form a list of the main areas of work on unblocking economic and transport links in the region, "setting rail and road links as priorities", as well as determine other areas of interaction. Expert subgroups will be established to prepare a list of relevant projects.
This list must be submitted for approval at the highest level by March 1.
As the President of the Russian Federation noted, the implementation of specific plans for the development of transport infrastructure and the economy of the region "will benefit both the Armenian and Azerbaijani people and, without any doubt, will benefit the region as a whole, and therefore the interests of the Russian Federation."
Aliyev also sees great prospects for the implementation of this agreement. He noted that after more than 30 years, Azerbaijan will have a transport connection through the territory of Armenia with its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and Armenia will have railway access to Russia and Iran through the territory of Azerbaijan. "We will also have access to the Turkish market through the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, and the Turkish and Russian railway arteries will be connected," Aliyev said. According to him, this can give a very large dynamic to the development of the region and strengthen its security.
Pashinyan also noted the importance of the signed statement. "I will not hide it, its implementation can simply change the economic image and appearance of our region," he said. The Armenian Prime Minister expressed hope that economic reforms will become another "reliable guarantor of security" and increase the investment attractiveness of the region.
Positions of Baku and Yerevan
Both Aliyev and Pashinyan thanked the President of the Russian Federation for the initiative to organize a trilateral meeting, as well as in general for the efforts to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and restore stability and security in the region. According to the Azerbaijani president, the very fact of the negotiations shows that the parties to the conflict are "determined to achieve a result", to "draw a line" under the events of September - November 2020.
According to Aliyev, the joint statement on the ceasefire is being implemented successfully, " the Russian peacekeeping mission is effectively performing its work, and for two months, with the exception of small incidents, there were no serious reasons for concern." All this, according to the President of Azerbaijan, inspires confidence that "the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is in the past" and we must think about the future, "how to live together in the neighborhood."
In turn, Pashinyan believes that " this conflict has not yet been resolved." "We managed to secure a ceasefire, but there are still a lot of issues that need to be resolved," he said, referring to the status of Nagorno-Karabakh as one of such topics. Pashinyan also referred to humanitarian issues and the problem of the exchange of prisoners of war as the most painful, noting that this point of the November joint statement of the leaders "is not fully implemented." The Armenian Prime Minister, however, expressed hope that the parties "will be able to come to a concrete solution as soon as possible."
Issues on the bilateral agenda
After the trilateral talks, the Russian leader held separate meetings with Aliyev and Pashinyan.
During the conversation with the Azerbaijani President, Putin, noting the extraordinary importance of the signed joint statement on Karabakh, drew attention to a number of issues on the bilateral agenda. According to the president, relations between Moscow and Baku are developing very successfully, primarily in the economic sphere. "I very much hope that the overall work on the settlement of the situation in the South Caucasus will benefit our bilateral relations as well, and will allow us to build our relations even closer, on an even more systematic basis, not only in the economy but also in the humanitarian sphere," Putin said.
In turn, Aliyev called Moscow and Baku long-standing strategic partners in the political sphere and noted the good dynamics of the development of relations. He noted that even in 2020, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, the decline in trade between the two countries was not very significant, and expressed confidence that in 2021 all losses will be compensated.
At the meeting with Pashinyan, the Russian President expressed hope that it will be possible to agree on all the remaining problems of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, including humanitarian issues.
Putin also stressed that relations between Russia and Armenia "were, remain and will be allied" in all areas. "We are close partners in many international organizations," he said. The Russian leader drew attention to the fact that despite the difficult past year, the trade turnover between Russia and Armenia increased by almost 4% in January - October 2020.
At the bilateral meeting, Pashinyan also noted that "Russia has been and remains Armenia's 'main strategic ally'.
GSV "Russia - Islamic World"
Photo: official website of the President of the Russian Federation
Based on materials from TASS