(Reuters) – Armenia’s prime minister said on Tuesday that plans were proceeding for a meeting with the president of Azerbaijan to discuss a durable peace accord, after Azeri forces took control of the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh last month.
In comments reported by Russian news agencies, Nikol Pashinyan also told Armenian television that tensions had subsided on the border between the two ex-Soviet states.
Armenia, he said, was willing to resolve outstanding issues, like opening transport corridors across each other’s territory.
Pashinyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev have held a series of meetings – arranged in turn by Russia, the European Union or the United States – with the aim of resolving disputes over Nagorno-Karabakh, the object of two wars in 30 years between the neighbours.
“We and Azerbaijan have both announced our readiness to hold this meeting and this will means a step towards,” Pashinyan was quoted as saying. “It means that in the course of two to three months the likelihood of signing a peace treaty is 70 percent.”
A top Russian security official, Nikolai Patrushev, met Aliyev in Baku, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.
Azerbaijan launched a lightning military operation last month to take full control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region run for three decades by leaders of the ethnic Armenian population.
The territory has long been recognised as part of Azerbaijan but Armenian separatists took control of it in a war as the Soviet Union was collapsing in the 1990s.
Azeri forces recaptured stretches of territory in and around the enclave in a 2020 conflict – ended with a truce brokered by Russia – and restored full control last month. Generations of hostile relations between the two people prompted most of its 120,000 residents to flee to Armenia.
Pashinyan said earlier this year that Armenia was ready to acknowledge Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the region.
In his TV interview, Pashinyan said Armenia wanted to establish transport corridors across each country’s territory – one of the other sticking points in attempts to sign a peace treaty.
“Opening up communications is in our interests,” he said.
Pashinyan, who has complained that Russia has not fulfilled its obligations to help Armenia under a defence pact, also said his country saw no reason to change its relations with Moscow, including provision to keep a Russian base in Armenia.
(Reporting by Ron Popeski; editing by Grant McCool)