'No breakthrough' at Putin-mediated Armenia and Azerbaijan talks

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the talks in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, 31 October 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the talks in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, 31 October 2022   -   Copyright  Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday to try to broker a settlement to a longstanding conflict between the two ex-Soviet neighbours but announced no breakthrough.

Putin’s talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev were held at the Russian leader’s Black Sea residence in Sochi on Monday.

The negotiations were aimed at brokering a settlement after violent clashes between the two Caucasian countries. 

They also reflect an attempt by the Kremlin to shore up its influence in the region.

After meetings with Pashinyan and Aliyev, Putin said they had to remove continuing points of disagreement from a prepared statement that was to have formed the basis of a peace deal. 

He called the meetings “very useful” but declined to answer a reporter's question about the remaining sticking points, saying they were too delicate to discuss publicly.

Baku and Yerevan "agreed not to use force", as well as to "settle all disputes solely on the basis of recognition of mutual sovereignty and territorial integration", they said in a joint statement. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades-old conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan sees the enclave as its own, but the region has been under the control of Armenian forces since a war ended in 1994. 

During a six-week war in 2020, Azerbaijan reclaimed parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories.

More than 6,500 people died in the fighting, which ended with a Russian-brokered peace agreement. Moscow deployed around 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.

Fresh clashes then broke out at the border in September, with at least 286 people from both sides killed in two days.

"This conflict has been going on for a decade, so we still need to end it," Putin said on Monday.

Before the meeting, the Kremlin said the leaders would discuss the implementation of the 2020 peace deal and “further steps to enhance stability and security in the Caucasus."

"Issues related to the restoration and development of trade and economic and transport links will also be discussed," Moscow added.

The Russian-brokered talks come as Western leaders have taken a more active stance in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

European Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron organised talks between Pashinian and Aliyev in Brussels in August.

Pashinyan said on Monday that he would press Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from the Russian peacekeeping zone in Nagorno-Karabakh, and seek freedom for Armenian prisoners of war. 

Aliyev, meanwhile, has vowed to repopulate Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan nationals.

Russian news agencies also reported that the leaders would discuss extending the mandate of Moscow's peacekeeping soldiers.