The EU will send a civil mission to the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan to reduce the tension in the conflict | International

The European Union moves to promote a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. With the absence of Russia — very busy with its war in Ukraine — the Union is advancing in its role as mediator in an area where Moscow has bid to maintain its influence. Now, after the renewed heating of the conflict around the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has lasted for decades, and the escalation in recent weeks in which some 300 people have died, the EU will send a civilian mission to the Armenian border with Azerbaijan to “build trust” and contribute to the future work of the border demarcation and security commissions formed months ago by both countries with the intermediation of the Union. The civilian mission will last two months.

The agreement, which comes after a peak of tension, after Azerbaijan’s attacks on internationally recognized territory such as Armenia a few weeks ago, is part of Baku and Yerevan’s commitment to the European Council after a meeting to reduce tension between the leaders of both countries, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinián, with the President of the Council, Charles Michel, and the French Emmanuel Macron on the margins of the summit of the new European Political Community that started this Thursday in Prague.

“Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration of Alma Ata of 1991, through which both recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the other”, says the declaration of the four, released this Friday by the Advice. Baku and Yerevan confirmed, says the text, that this would be a basis for the work of the border delimitation commissions, which are due to meet in October in Brussels. The mission will be located on the Armenian side, and Azerbaijan has agreed to “cooperate”, according to the European Council.

Last week, Brussels called on Azerbaijan for a full investigation of alleged war crimes, after the dissemination on social networks of videos showing the murder of Armenian prisoners of war by people dressed in Azerbaijani uniform during the recent escalation. This has lowered tension now after a new ceasefire agreement mediated by the United States.

Both countries have seen a new escalation of hostilities this summer, the worst since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, which lasted 44 days around the enclave internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, but populated by Armenians who had completely controlled it since the war of the 1990s. The war escalation of 2020 cooled down with a cessation of hostilities agreement signed between Baku, Yerevan and Moscow, defined as “very painful” by Armenia and which consolidated Azerbaijan’s control of part of the enclave. The agreement, which provides for the deployment of some 2,000 Russian soldiers as a “peacekeeping force” – that of Nagorno-Karabakh was the only one of the legacy conflicts of the former USSR in which the Kremlin had not deployed soldiers -, greatly increased the dependence of Armenia from Russia, while Azerbaijan received strong support from Turkey.

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Now, Armenia has felt left out and deeply disappointed with Moscow after asking for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) — a Eurasian military alliance led by Russia and also including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. — after the escalation in mid-September and receiving a negative response.

The EU, which was absent from the mediation in the 2020 war, has since stepped forward and gained influence in the South Caucasus area; so has Turkey. The European Union seeks stability in the region, and more so now that the Russian war in Ukraine has shattered the European security architecture that had prevailed since World War II. At the same time, Brussels is moving to secure Azerbaijan’s energy supplies while weaning itself off Russian gas.

Community sources point out that the agreement to send a civilian mission to the Armenian borders will help reduce tension and is a first step towards a commitment to a peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan. The next point would be to agree on the unblocking of regional communications. Something to which, according to what the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinián, said this Friday, Baku is still opposed. Meanwhile, Ilham Aliyev, president of Azerbaijan, has assured that the meetings with his Armenian counterpart and EU representatives are “bringing closer” peace.

Turkey and Armenia advance in talks to reopen the border

Andres Mourenza

One of the main problems for the economic survival of Armenia is that most of its borders remain closed: to the east, due to the permanent state of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan; and to the west, because Turkey closed it in 1993 in solidarity with Azebaijanis, with whom Turks share important linguistic and cultural ties. But as negotiations progress between Yerevan and Baku, so too are they with Ankara.

In January, the special representatives appointed by Turkey and Armenia met in Moscow to lay the groundwork for the negotiation, which led to the resumption of flights between the main Turkish city, Istanbul, and Yerevan. This Thursday, within the framework of the first meeting of the European Political Community, in addition to three-way talks between the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Azerbaijani counterpart, Aliyev, and the Armenian prime minister, Pashinián, a meeting took place between a large delegation of Armenian and Turkish representatives, the highest level since 2009, when another attempt at rapprochement failed due to pressure from Azerbaijan on Turkey.

“Our special representatives continue to work. In addition, there are working groups in the respective foreign ministries, which will present us with their conclusions […] We want to unfreeze relations between Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan as soon as possible and solve this issue once and for all,” Erdogan said in Prague. Turkey has an obvious economic interest in reopening the border, something that could spark activity in the poor provinces of northeastern Anatolia, as well as achieve preferential treatment in the Zangezur corridor, which is planned between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan to through Armenian territory and that would give Turkey faster access for its goods to Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

In Armenia, although it is in great need of easing the economic blockade it is suffering, this negotiation raises blisters among certain sectors of the population, due to Turkey’s refusal to recognize the massacre of Armenians during World War I as a genocide and for the cession of sovereignty that the establishment of the Azerbaijani corridor through its territory could entail.

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