MOSCOW – – Armenia’s new Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan accused Azerbaijan of not fully complying with a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh as he met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.
Mirzoyan, who previously served as speaker of the Armenian parliament, flew to the Russian capital on what was his first visit abroad in his current capacity.
Lavrov emphasized this fact at the start of their talks. “This once again underscores the special character of our relations,” he said.
“Russia is a military-political ally and the main economic partner of Armenia,” Mirzoyan said for his part. “In this regard I would like to reaffirm the Armenian side’s readiness to continue forging relations with Russia on the basis of the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance.”
Closer ties with Russia, he said, are even more important for Armenia after the six-week war with Azerbaijan.
“Peace and stability in the region is part of our strategy and we are prepared for active dialogue in this direction,” Mirzoyan went on. “But the situation in the region remains quite tense and that is greatly determined by Azerbaijan’s destructive policy. I want to point out that Baku is not fulfilling its obligations stemming from the trilateral statement of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia adopted on November 9, 2020.”
Mirzoyan singled out Baku’s refusal to free dozens of Armenian soldiers and civilians remaining in Azerbaijani captivity nearly ten months after Moscow helped to stop large-scale hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. He also pointed to cross-border Azerbaijani incursions into “sovereign territory of Armenia” and Azerbaijani leaders’ continuing “Armenophobic rhetoric.”
Lavrov stressed on Tuesday the importance of reopening the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for commerce. He said that would facilitate an eventual resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Mirzoyan held after their talks, Lavrov also said: “We agreed during today’s negotiations that the work of the OSCE Minsk Group is necessary.”
Lavrov also called on Azerbaijani to release the Armenian prisoners of war and other detainees without preconditions. He said this signal has been sent to Azerbaijan on the presidential and other levels.
“This would be a landmark confidence-building measure that we are currently lacking, and of course, an important humanitarian step,” the Russian FM noted.
He said Russia will continue to insist on this position, but added that the final decision does not depend on them.
The group’s new Russian co-chair, Igor Khovayev, visited Baku and met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov on Monday.
“If Armenia and Azerbaijan start at some point negotiations on a peace treaty, their agenda must include the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status based on the principles formulated by the [Russian, U.S. and French] co-chairs of the Minsk Group,” Mirzoyan told journalists.