Farid Gajramanov and Mijail Vignanski
Baku/Tbilisi, Sept 21 (EFE).- Representatives of Azerbaijan and the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh met Thursday for the first time in three decades of conflict to negotiate the integration of the Armenian enclave into Azerbaijani territory and the provision of security guarantees for Nagorno-Karabakh residents.
“At the meeting, held in a constructive and positive atmosphere, the reintegration of the Armenian population of Karabakh, the restoration of infrastructure and life within the framework of the Constitution and laws of Azerbaijan were discussed,” said the Azerbaijani presidential administration.
The Baku government stressed the importance of disarming the troops of the separatist territory and, in particular, the dissolution of the self-proclaimed republic.
For their part, the Karabakhs stressed the need to continue discussing the resolution of the conflict “in a peaceful atmosphere” and expressed their readiness to hold further talks in the near future.
The two-hour meeting was agreed the day before, following a ceasefire reached between the two sides 24 hours after Azerbaijan announced the start of an anti-terrorist operation that wiped out most of the enclave’s troops forcing them to capitulate.
Guarantees for Karabakh Armenians
One of the main issues that need to be resolved in future talks is the guarantee of security for the 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, as fears of potential “ethnic cleansing” by Azerbaijan grow.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that Armenia is preparing to receive 40,000 families from the region, but insisted that “the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh must have the right to live in dignity and safety in their homeland and their homes.
For the time being, Azerbaijan, which had been blockading the enclave for ten months, agreed to send fuel, food and medicine to the area to alleviate the serious humanitarian situation in Karabakh.
A sad anniversary
The meeting coincided with the 32nd anniversary of Armenia’s declaration of state sovereignty after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
President Pashinyan addressed the nation without directly mentioning Karabakh, but stressed that “peace is necessary” to achieve a democratic society.
“Many believe that in this tense regional environment, with recurring armed conflicts, it is not enough to talk about peace. But it is precisely under these conditions that peace should be appreciated and not be confused with a ceasefire or a truce,” he noted.
However, the Armenian opposition, which accuses Pashinyan of refusing to protect Karabakh Armenians, does not share this view and announced indefinite protests aimed at ousting him.
The leader of the Mother Armenia bloc, Andranik Tevanian, called for protests in the capital, Yerevan, while a group of opponents announced a hunger strike to force the prime minister’s resignation.
Towards a peace deal
Discontent aside, the reintegration of Karabakh into Azerbaijan could be the first effective step toward the signing of the long-awaited peace treaty between the two nations, which have already exchanged several drafts.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told European Council President Charles Michel on Thursday that the meeting “will have a positive impact on the progress of negotiations on the peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
In addition, President Aliyev and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to “intensify work” on preparing the peace agreement, unblocking transport routes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and demarcating the border between both countries.