European Council President Charles Michel praised the latest Brussels meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, though details of concrete agreements between the two have remained scant.
‘The leaders agreed to advance discussions on the future peace treaty governing inter-state relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Teams led by the Foreign Ministers will take forward this process in the coming weeks’, an official statement from Charles Michel, who hosted the meeting on 22 May, reads.
According to Michel’s statement, he and the two South Caucasus leaders have ‘agreed to stay in close contact and will meet again in the same format until July-August’.
The statement by Charles Michel sparked outrage in Armenia, in particular for the manner in which he referred to the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. used for addressing the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh was widely criticised in Armenia.
In the statement, Michel wrote that he ‘stressed to both leaders that it was necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh’ be addressed.
The usage of ‘Karabakh’ as opposed to Nagorno-Karabakh, as in previous statements made by Michel, corresponded with the ‘Azerbaijani agenda’, Tigran Grigoryan, a Yerevan-based political analyst, said in an interview with RFE/RL.
Following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly stated that there is ‘no Nagorno-Karabakh’ and that the region is part of ‘Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region’.
In a telephone conversation with Turkish President Erdogan in Brussels on May 23, Aliyev also said that during the trilateral meeting, the parties agreed on the opening of the ‘Zangazur corridor’ that would cross Armenian territory and connect the Western regions of Azerbaijan with the exclave of Nakhchivan, as well as the construction of both railways and highways.
After Aliyev’s comments to Erdogan, Armenian officials publically disputed the claim that an agreement had been reached.
‘There can be no corridor roads or transport communications on the territory of Armenia’, Armenia’s Secretary of National Security Council, Armen Grigoryan, said. ‘All the agreements reached in Brussels are about the reopening of [border] transport links.’
According to the statement from Charles Michel, Pashinyan and Aliyev ‘agreed on on the principles governing transit between western Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan’. He gave no further details.
The bilateral border commission, one of the main subjects of the previous summit between Pashinyan and Aliyev in Brussels, will hold a meeting ‘in the coming days’, the statement also reads. The commission staff from Armenia will be led by Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan and by Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev from Azerbaijan.
Yerevan protests continue
The meeting was held amid non-stop protests in Armenia led by opposition parties and their supporters. The demonstrators are demanding Prime Minister Pashinyan’s resignation after he made a comment in parliament in which he said Armenia needed to ‘lower the bars’ on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh in international negotiations. The comment, delivered on an April 13 address in parliament, was intercepted by many as a step back from demanding recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence.
‘What is happening is also due to the fact that the Armenian authorities have consistently nullified our basic theses of historical significance, starting from the fact that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan has nothing to do with Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh]’, Armenia’s former Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan told and a harsh critic of the Pashinyan government wrote on Facebook.
Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh also criticised the Brussels summit and Pashinyan’s comments on the question of the region’s status, stating that ‘any status’ under the Azerbaijani control is ‘inadmissible’.
Additional reporting by Ismi Aghayev.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.