BRUSSELS — European Council President Charles Michel said the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan pledged to de-escalate tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and restore rail links between the two South Caucasus states during talks hosted by him in Brussels late on Tuesday.
Michel, who heads the European Union’s top decision-making body, said Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan assured him that they remain committed to honoring relevant agreements brokered by Russia over the past year.
“President Aliyev and Prime Minister Pashinyan agreed that in the context of the planned launch of negotiations on the delimitation and demarcation of the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, further tangible steps will need to be taken to reduce tensions on the ground to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the talks,” he said in a late-night statement on the trilateral meeting.
The EU is ready to provide “technical assistance” to the demarcation process, added Michel.
“It was agreed to proceed with the restoration of railway lines, with appropriate arrangements for border and customs controls, based on the principle of reciprocity,” he said, indicating the EU’s readiness to finance that work.
Pashinyan confirmed that he and Aliyev “reaffirmed the agreements to relaunch the railways.” Armenia and Azerbaijan will retain full control over railways passing through their territory, he said in a Facebook post.
Neither Michel nor Pashinyan mentioned other transport links and, in particular, a road that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia.
Speaking in Brussels earlier on Tuesday, Aliyev said people and cargo passing through that “Zangezur corridor” must be exempt from Armenian border controls. Pashinyan rejected the demand shortly before the trilateral meeting, saying that it runs counter to understandings reached by them with Russian mediation.
Michel stressed the importance of establishing transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan “while fully respecting the sovereignty of all countries.”
He said he also urged the two sides to “work towards de-escalation” and resolve “all outstanding humanitarian issues,” including the release of more Armenian soldiers held in Azerbaijan.