Tough negotiations between Yerevan and Baku
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Talks wanted by Washington, soon Aliev and Pašinyan should also meet. However several 'crucial issues' remain. Azerbaijan sets the disarmament of the Armenian defence forces in Nagorno Karabakh as a precondition. The Armenian public retorts: 'They want our capitulation'.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - After the three-day talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the "George Schulz" Foreign Affairs Study Center in Arlington, Virginia, concluded on June 30 in Washington, the foreign ministries of the two conflicting countries both said, without going into details, that there are still several "crucial issues" that require further working sessions.

The ministry spokesman in Yerevan went on to specify to Radio Azatutyun that clarifications are needed on border demarcation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the withdrawal of troops deployed at the borders, and the establishment of an international guarantee mechanism for dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert, the Armenian capital of Nagorno Karabakh.

Despite these difficulties in the discussion between the parties, all praise the progress achieved by the two ministers, Armenia's Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijan's DĹžejkhun Bayramov, in drafting the agreement "On Peace and the Restoration of Interstate Relations," obtained at the U.S. mediation table. Even on progress, by the way, the parties always remain rather vague.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who took a direct part in the negotiations along with Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, joined the cautiously optimistic statements of his colleagues, and also the need for many more efforts to be made, because "it is clear to everyone that the closer you get to the goal, the more complicated the issues to be defined become."

Baku has set as a precondition to any agreement the disarmament of Armenian defense forces in the disputed area. As Armenian political scientist Tigran Grigoryan notes, "so far the agreement covers only secondary issues and details, but not the fundamental ones," and so it is actually quite far from a conclusion.

He notes that even the Americans have remained more measured than in previous circumstances, recalling when Blinken himself assured in May that "peace is very close." After all, this round of talks took place against a backdrop of new conflict escalation, what could not help but be reflected on the discussion table.

Grigoryan believes that Azerbaijan has "used these tensions to force Armenians to make concessions, for fear of further confrontations," especially to insist on disarming Armenians.

The Azerbaijani press hammers on "provocations by illegal armed formations in Nagorno Karabakh," which are allegedly supplied directly from Yerevan. According to the analyst, Azerbaijan is not really interested in a comprehensive peace, but only "in signing a document with unilateral concessions, in fact a capitulation of Armenia."

The mediators should therefore put more pressure on Azerbaijan not to use provocations as weapons in the negotiations, "even in the 2020 negotiations there were not all these tensions after the 44-day war."

The fact that the U.S. does not take clear positions condemning Azerbaijani strategies, again according to Grigoryan, "indicates a fear of blowing up the entire peace process, they fear that any rebuke of Baku would result in its leaving the consultation table."

The same leaders of the two countries, Azerbaijani President Aliev and Armenian Prime Minister Pašinyan, are expected to meet in a few weeks, with representatives of the European Union and the Americans attending.

Blinken said he is "looking forward to the next meeting, to take advantage of the positive momentum provided by the latest discussions," namely "the spirit of sincerity, openness and frankness with which both sides have been addressing such sensitive issues together."