Russia Proposes Armenia-Azerbaijan Commission To Demarcate Border Amid Incursion Row
By RFE/RL's Armenian Service, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service May 19, 2021
Russia says it has proposed setting up a joint commission to demarcate the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, amid renewed Yerevan-Baku tensions over the past week over an alleged Azerbaijani military incursion.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijani troops of crossing several kilometers into its Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces and trying to stake a claim to territory.
Azerbaijan insists that its troops did not cross into Armenia and simply took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier that were not accessible in winter months.
The border dispute emerged months after the two South Caucasus neighbors ended a six-week war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The conflict, which claimed some 6,000 lives, ended in November with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire that saw Armenia ceding swaths of territory that ethnic Armenians had controlled for decades.
Speaking during a visit to Tajikistan on May 19, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had proposed setting up a joint Armenian-Azeri border commission, with Russia possibly participating as a "consultant" or "mediator."
The secretary of Armenia's Security Council, Armen Grigorian, confirmed the Russian proposal.
"In response to it, the Armenian side has stressed the need for the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from Armenia's sovereign territory before the launch of such work," Grigorian said.
"Only after that would conditions be created for such discussions."
Lavrov presented the Russian proposal during a meeting with his counterparts from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
Armenia has appealed to the Russian-led grouping to hold consultations on its border dispute with Azerbaijan. Besides Armenia and Russia, the grouping also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
On May 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin held separate calls with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, and Armenian acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
"The Russian side will continue mediation efforts and consultative assistance aimed at reaching an agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the launch of the process of delimiting and demarcating the state border," according to a readout of the call with Aliyev published by the Kremlin.
Putin and Pashinian "showed an interest in the earliest possible resolution of the border incident through negotiations," the Kremlin said in a separate statement.
The Armenian prime minister's office said Pashinian thanked Russia for its efforts aimed at strengthening peace and stability in the region.
Russian military officials have participated in a series of negotiations between Armenian and Azerbaijani defense officials to try resolve the dispute, without leading to any concrete result.
The Armenian Defense Ministry warned on May 19 that, if no negotiated settlement is reached "within a reasonable time frame," Yerevan would reserve the right to resolve the issue "by force."
Russia deployed peacekeepers around Nagorno-Karabakh last year to help enforce the cease-fire.
Moscow has strong ties and a mutual defense pact with Armenia, where it has a military base, but is also on friendly terms with Azerbaijan.
With reporting by Reuters and Armenpress
Correction: This article has been amended to clarify which countries are currently members of the CSTO.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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