A trilateral meeting between Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh issue ended Monday in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the meeting, thanking Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for coming to the Russian capital.
Putin said Russia’s mediation efforts in Nagorno-Karabakh were aimed at establishing a stable cease-fire in the region.
“A trilateral cease-fire agreement between Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia is being fulfilled consistently. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is stable. Over 48,000 people already returned home after the cease-fire,” he said referring to a truce in November that ended fighting in the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan that liberated it from decades of Armenian occupation.
“Russia follows the arrangement agreed by the OSCE Minsk Group in all its steps. We continue to constantly consult our steps with our partners,” he added.
Putin said that the leaders would discuss various issues including the activities of the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as border lines, humanitarian problems and the protection of cultural heritage.
“The issue of opening economic, commercial and transportation links and borders is especially important. The work on this issue is planned to be carried out by the joint working group under the chairmanship of the deputy prime ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he said.
What happened in Karabakh?
Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as an Azerbaijani territory, and seven adjacent regions.
When new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and even violated humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the six-week-long conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages, while at least 2,802 of its soldiers were martyred. There are differing claims about the number of casualties on the Armenian side, which, sources and officials say, could be up to 5,000.
The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020 to end the fighting and work towards a comprehensive resolution.
A joint Turkish-Russian center is being established to monitor the truce. Russian peacekeeping troops have also been deployed in the region.
The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have withdrawn in line with the agreement.
Violations, however, have been reported in the past few weeks, with some Armenian soldiers said to have been hiding in the mountainous enclave.