YEREVAN — Armenia has agreed to return four abandoned border villages that it has controlled since the early 1990s to Azerbaijan as the initial step in defining the frontier between the two bitter South Caucasus rivals, the countries said in identical statements on Friday.

The statement issued by Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said that the agreement was reached during the eighth round of talks between Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Mustafayev that was held at an undisclosed section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on April 19.

It said the parties reached preliminary agreement that the initial stage of the delimitation process will involve sections between four villages in the territory of Armenia’s northeastern Tavush Province and four abandoned villages that used to be part of Azerbaijan’s northwestern Qazax district.

“Armenia has agreed to return four villages under occupation since the early 1990s,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizada wrote on social media.

The abandoned former Azerbaijani villages face the Armenian villages and have been under Armenia’s military control since 1991-92 when ethnic clashes intensified between the two former Soviet nations. The proposed border will run between the Armenian and Azerbaijani villages.

The statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry indicates the paired villages as Baghanis (Armenia) and Baganis Ayrum (Azerbaijan), Voskepar (Armenia) and Asagi Askipara (Azerbaijan), Kirants (Armenia) and Xeyrimli (Azerbaijan), and Berkaber (Armenia) and Qizilhacili (Azerbaijan).

According to the statement, the process is aimed at “bringing them in line with the legally established inter-republican border that existed within the framework of the Soviet Union at the time of its disintegration.”

“It was decided that the description of these segments of the border line will be compiled taking into account the specification of coordinates based on geodetic measurements on the ground, which will be formalized by the corresponding Protocol-Description, which must be agreed and signed by the parties by May 15, 2024,” the statement said.

It added that the parties had agreed to turn to their governments “for the purpose of taking measures for the simultaneous and parallel deployment of their border services on the agreed sections of the border line.”

“They also agreed that until the delimitation process is fully completed, the boundary line segments specified in the Protocol-Description will be considered delimited,” the statement said.

According to the statement, at the same time, the parties agreed “to complete the work on the coordination of the draft Regulation of the Joint Activities of the Commission on the Delimitation of the State Border and Border Security between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Commission on the Delimitation of the State Border between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia by July 1, 2024, and to start the process of intra-state agreement and approval of the Provisions in order and in accordance with the requirements of the legislations of the states.”

“The parties agreed that the process of delimitation will be based on the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1991. The parties also agreed to fix this basic principle in the draft Provisions (if in the future the Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and Interstate Relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan establishes otherwise, then the corresponding paragraph of the Provisions will be brought into compliance with the principles established by this Agreement).

“It was agreed, after the approval of the Regulations by the parties, to agree on the priority and continue the process of delimitation of all other sections of the border, including on the issues of enclaves and exclaves.

“A protocol was signed as a result of the meeting. It was decided to agree on the date and venue of the next meeting in working order,” the statement concluded.

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