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Armenian, Azerbaijani Leaders Hold 'Significant' Talks

European Council President Charles Michel (left), Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (center), and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hold talks in Brussels on December 14.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held “significant” EU-mediated talks in Brussels, European Council President Charles Michel said.

The trilateral meeting lasted more than four hours, stretching into the early morning of December 15 as the neighbors discussed ways to overcome tensions and advance diplomacy following last year’s war, Michel said following the talks.

In autumn 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The conflict claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Armenian forces ceded territories they had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan.

Since then, there have been repeated deadly border skirmishes.

The flare-ups in violence have renewed international calls for the two neighbors to engage in a process of delimitating and demarcating their Soviet-era border, as well as reaching a broader agreement to bring stability to the South Caucasus region.

Aliyev and Pashinian agreed that “further tangible steps” need to be taken to reduce tensions and create a conducive atmosphere ahead of planned delimitation and demarcation talks, the European Council said in a statement.

Michel reassured both leaders of the EU’s commitment to work closely with Armenia and Azerbaijan “in overcoming conflict, creating cooperation and an atmosphere of trust, with a view to sustainable peace in the region ultimately underpinned by a comprehensive peace agreement,” the statement added.

In a possible breakthrough, Michel said Armenia and Azerbaijan had also agreed to begin a process to potentially restore communications infrastructure between the two countries, including a rail link with border and customs controls.

The meeting was the fifth face-to-face talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan since last year’s war. The last direct talks were mediated by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on November 26.

Michel has been leading the EU’s diplomacy in the South Caucasus.

After phone calls with Michel last month, the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders agreed to establish a direct communication line, at the level of their respective ministers of defense, to serve as an incident-prevention mechanism.

In last year's war, Baku gained control of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as adjacent territories that had been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since the end of a separatist war in 1994. Some 2,000 Russian troops were deployed to monitor the cease-fire.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

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