Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have taken another step towards normalizing ties following a round-table meeting at the European Political Community Summit in Moldova.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met President Emmanuel Macron of France, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Council President Charles Michel on the fringes of the summit.
The Caucasus neighbors have been seeking to negotiate a peace agreement over the decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the help of the European Union and the United States.
On May 14, they agreed on mutual recognition of territorial integrity at a meeting hosted in Brussels by Charles Michel.
But the West’s diplomatic engagement in the Caucasus has irked Moscow, the traditional power broker in the region.
regional power broker
Pashinyan and Aliyev had separate meetings with Vladimir Putin in late May before sitting down for three-way talks aimed at resolving the dispute. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars in 2020 and in the 1990s for control of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Six weeks of fighting in 2020 killed more than 6,500 people and ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled for decades.
Armenia, which has relied on Russia for military and economic support since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has accused Moscow of failing to fulfil its peacekeeping role in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Yerevan’s concerns have grown after Azerbaijani activists blocked Nagorno-Karabakh’s only land link to Armenia in December. In April, Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint manned by border guards along the route.
Last year, Armenia also accused Azerbaijan of occupying a pocket of its land, in what it has said amounted to military aggression and demanded military help from Russia, which has never materialised.
With Russia bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkey, the United States and European Union have sought to repair ties between the Caucasus rivals.