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Russia, sponsor of a policy of small steps between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Addressing the most urgent, postponing thorny issues: this is the objective of the meeting organized by Vladimir Putin, Friday, November 26, between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, one year after the end of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. Rather than celebrate the ceasefire of November 9, 2020 – such a celebration was refused by Armenian Nikol Pashinian, for whom the date corresponds to that of a defeat -, the meeting, which was held in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, aimed primarily at putting an end to the recurring and violent tensions between the two countries.

The deadliest of these episodes took place less than two weeks ago, resulting in the deaths of six Armenian soldiers and seven Azerbaijani soldiers, with the use of heavy weapons and artillery. More than twenty Armenian soldiers were also captured, Yerevan denouncing a new incursion into its territory.

Sign of the volatility and the dangerousness of the situation, these clashes do not take place around Nagorno-Karabakh itself but on the border between the two states, in the district of Syunik – on the Azerbaijani side, we are talking about the territories formerly used as a buffer zone for Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh but taken over by the Baku army.

The appearance of these new hotbeds of tension is a direct consequence of the ceasefire of November 2020, which saw the emergence of new borders. However, these, inherited from a Soviet Union which made them simple administrative boundaries, are not delimited in detail. What is more, they sometimes pass through Armenian villages, or cut off communication routes used by Armenians.

Results full of uncertainty

It is on these two subjects – borders and roads – that Nikol Pashinian and the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev, concentrated their work, Friday evening. These talks, “Constructive”, according to Vladimir Poutine, led to the establishment by the end of the year of a commission responsible for delimiting the border, under the aegis of Russia. Among his first missions: to determine which cards will serve as a basis for this work.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders have also reportedly agreed to “Unblock the transport corridors” between the two countries, both for railways and roads. The Russian president did not specify whether this agreement concerns the establishment of a corridor between Azerbaijan and its enclave of Nakhichevan. Such a project is mentioned in the 2020 ceasefire but it is perceived as a threat to Armenian sovereignty, which evokes a “Road” rather than a corridor and claims for itself access to Russian territory.

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