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Germany hosts talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan

February 28, 2024

Azerbaijan and Armenia are engaged in peace talks in Berlin, months after Azerbaijan recaptured the Nagorno-Karabakh region. It follows earlier dialogue at the Munich Security Conference.

National flags of Azerbaijan and Armenia are pictured during an informal meeting
In addition to Germany, the US, EU and Russia have sought for decades to mediate the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh regionImage: Sergei Karpukhin/SNA/IMAGO

The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan started peace talks in Berlin on Wednesday, five months after thousands of ethnic Armenians fled the Nagorno-Karabakh region following a lightning Azerbaijani offensive in September.

Germany is hosting the meeting to resolve a conflict between the Caucasus neighbors that has lasted for decades.

Why is the meeting taking place now?

The meeting of Armenia's Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijan's Jeyhun Bayramov follows a surprise direct meeting between the leaders of both countries on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference earlier this month.

The two countries had issued a joint statement in December saying they wanted to reach a peace deal.

"What we're seeing now are courageous steps by both countries to put the past behind and to work towards a durable peace for their people," said host of the talks, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

"We want you to be able to walk the path to durable peace," she told the two ministers as she opened the two-day meeting after the trio took a short stroll on the lush grounds of Villa Borsig, a Foreign Ministry retreat.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz mediated the previous talks in Munich, where Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to press ahead with the peace negotiations.

Scholz's spokesman said the leaders had pledged to resolve differences "exclusively through peaceful means and without the use of force."

Baerbock traveled to the two countries in November and called for new peace talks to take place.

Despite the apparent goodwill, the situation remains fraught, with Armenia reporting earlier this month that Azerbaijan's military killed four of its soldiers along the heavily guarded border between the two.

Azerbaijani leader says EU and France are 'demonizing' his country

It's been far from plain sailing, though, as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev separately on Wednesday accused European Union and French leaders of "demonizing" his country and insisted Baku has no plans to attack arch-foe Armenia.

Yerevan is concerned that Azerbaijan, emboldened by its success in Karabakh, could invade Armenian territory in order to create a land bridge to its Nakhchivan enclave.

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrel said last month that "any violation of Armenia's territorial integrity will be unacceptable and will have severe consequences for our relations with Azerbaijan."

But Aliyev said Azerbaijan has no plans to attack Armenia and is committed to peace talks, denouncing Borrel's comments as a "covert threat towards Azerbaijan."

He also blasted French President Emmanuel Macron. "This is Macron's insinuation," he said. "This is part of the policy of Azerbaijan's demonisation."

What is the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh?

The Armenian-majority region broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s, but its independence was not recognized by any country, including Armenia.

A Russian-brokered cease-fire after a war in 2020 saw Azerbaijan regain areas surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that ethnic Armenian forces had held.

Azerbaijan retook Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023, and most of the territory's residents fled to Armenia. Yerevan has accused Baku of "ethnic cleansing," while Azerbaijan argues that ethnic Armenians left voluntarily.

rc/wd (Reuters, AFP)

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