Russia blames Armenia for breakdown of Azerbaijan peace talks

Over the past few months, Russia and Armenia’s relationship has become fraught with tension over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The Russian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani presidents
From left, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have met repeatedly since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war in an effort to maintain a ceasefire and keep transport and economic links open [File: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin pool photo via AP]

Russia has blamed Armenia for a breakdown in peace talks with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the latest sign of friction between Moscow and Yerevan over the conflict.

For months, Armenia and Azerbaijan, both former Soviet republics, have tried to discuss a peace deal for the contested region in the South Caucasus.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is home to a mainly ethnic Armenian population. The two neighbour’s conflict over the region began at the start of the 20th century and has broken out into war twice, the latest in 2020.

Moscow on Thursday accused Armenia of bailing on peace talks and asked Yerevan to return to the negotiating table.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “It is difficult to assess Yerevan’s position when their official statements differ so significantly.”

She said Armenia’s decision to abandon peace talks scheduled in December in Moscow “prevented us from discussing the peace treaty”.

“If our Armenian partners are really interested in solving these problems, … then instead of engaging in scholasticism, it is necessary to continue working together,” Zakharova said.

A village in the Nagorno-Karabakh region
The village of Taghavard in Nagorno-Karabakh was divided between Azerbaijan and Armenia after the Second Nagorno-Karbakh War in 2020 [File: Artem MikryukovReuters]

Growing tensions

For the past month, Azerbaijani civilians who say they are environmental activists have protested along the Lachin corridor, the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Yerevan has called the action an Azerbaijani government-endorsed blockade.

Baku says the group has legitimate concerns over suspected unlawful Armenian mining projects and has denied that the region is blocked.

The issue has caused tension in the relationship between allies Armenia and Russia. Yerevan has repeatedly criticised Russia’s peacekeepers, who have been placed at the Lachin corridor since 2020 to ensure free movement. Armenia has said they are not doing enough to ease the bottleneck. But Moscow has said it is doing everything possible.

On Tuesday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said: “Russia’s military presence in Armenia not only fails to guarantee its security, but it raises security threats for Armenia.”

On the same day, Armenia announced it would not host military drills by the Russian-led alliance of post-Soviet states, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CTSO).

Pashinyan said it would be “unreasonable to hold CTSO exercises on the territory of Armenia”.

Despite the cancelled drills, the Kremlin said Yerevan remains a “close ally” and it planned to ask Armenia to clarify its position.

Source: News Agencies