MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that “strictly technical” issues remain in resolving one of the main disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, neighbors that fought a war over a contested territory.
Putin met in Moscow with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, discussing a dispute over a winding road called the Lachin Corridor. That's the only authorized connection between Armenia and the contested territory, Nagorno-Karabakh, and it's a lifeline for supplies to the region’s approximately 120,000 people.
Aliyev and Pashinyan, in a broader regional summit meeting Putin hosted in Moscow, lashed out at each other for their positions regarding the land corridor. But Putin said that on the “principal issues, there is an agreement,” and later said all that remained were “surmountable obstacles,” calling them differences in terminology and “strictly technical.” He said representatives of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan would meet in a week to try to resolve the differences.
According to the Russian state news agency Tass, Pashinyan said last Wednesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan recognize each other’s territorial integrity within Soviet administrative borders. It added that on Monday, Pashinyan said the territory of Azerbaijan that his government is ready to recognize includes Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinyan said Thursday: “I want to confirm that Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on mutual recognition of each other’s territorial integrity, and on this basis we can say that we are moving quite well towards settlement of our relations.”
For his part, Aliyev said Thursday that the Armenian leader's statements ensure that "the issue of agreeing on other points of the peace treaty will go much easier, because it was the main factor on which we could not come to an agreement."
Putin told the leaders a key sign of progress is “an agreement on the fundamental issue of territorial integrity.” He added: “And this is in fact the basis for agreeing on other issues of a secondary nature."
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 that killed more than 6,000 people. The war ended in a Russia-brokered armistice under which Armenia relinquished territories surrounding the region. Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan, but ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia had controlled the region and surrounding territories since 1994.
The agreement to end the war left the Lachin Corridor as the only authorized connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Russia sent a peacekeeping force of 2,000 troops to maintain order, including ensuring that the Lachin Corridor road remains open. However last December, Azeris claiming to be environmental activists began blocking the road, saying they were protesting illegitimate mining by Armenians. Armenia contends Azerbaijan orchestrated the protests.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly alleged that Armenians have used the Lachin Corridor to bring weapons and ammunition into Nagorno-Karabakh in violation of the armistice terms.