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Hrant Gadarigian

EU Council President Says All “Core” Karabakh Conflict Issues Must be Discussed

The office of European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement yesterday reiterating the European Union’s commitment to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan to promote peace and stability in the South Caucasus.

Michel’s office says the statement is necessary given recent tensions between the two neighboring countries.

Following his meeting in Brussels with Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on May 22, Michel issued a statement that did not mention the status of Artsakh as an issue for discussion in “peace talks” between Yerevan and Baku.

“In addition to this track, I also stressed to both leaders that it was necessary that the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed,” Michel’s statement read. This caused concern in some Armenian circles that the Artsakh status issue was not of primary importance for the EU.

Yesterday’s statement by Michel’s office responded to this concern in the following manner. 

“As with any legacy of conflict - terminology is particularly sensitive in this context. President Michel's statement on outcomes of the leaders meeting on 22 May should not be interpreted as favouring a pre-determined outcome of discussions either way. What ultimately matters most is that all issues are comprehensively addressed; this includes rights and security of all populations.”

Yesterday’s statement also says that on May 22 Michel stressed “all core issues that led to the first Nagorno-Karabakh war as well as to the renewed hostilities in 2020 will need to be addressed by all stakeholders to create conditions for lasting and equitable peace.”

Here too, Michel does not specify what is meant by “core” issues. Naturally, the “core” issue for Baku is Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and for Armenia, the right of self-determination for Artsakh Armenians.

Today’s statement also refers to the opening of transportation links in the South Caucasus and indirectly touches upon another issue of concern for Armenians, namely the so-called “Zangezur Corridor”.

Following the 2020 Karabakh war, Azerbaijan pressed its demand for the creation of a land route through southern Armenia linking Nakhijevan with the rest of Azerbaijan. Many in Armenia speculated at the time that Baku wanted control of such an artery and regarded the idea as a breach of Armenia’s sovereignty.

Yesterday’s statement by Michel’s office ruled out any possibility.

“Connectivity was specifically discussed in Brussels on 22 May to advance opportunities for unblocking the region. In this context, both parties confirmed there were no extraterritorial claims with regard to future transport infrastructure. Speculation to the contrary is regrettable.”

The statement says that on May 22 Michel “stressed the need to prepare populations for peace and the paramount role public rhetoric plays in this regard.”

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