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‘Balance of interests’: Putin’s formula for settling Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

According to the Russian president, the conflict must be settled so that people could feel safe

MOSCOW, October 29./TASS/. A balance of interests between Azerbaijan and Armenia must be found in order to iron out the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the ‘Russia Calling’ VTB Capital Investment Forum on Thursday.

"What is or where is this long-term settlement? [It is] in finding a balance of interests that would suit both sides - the Azerbaijani people who we have unwavering respect for, as well as the interests of the Armenian people," the president said.

The conflict began with ethnic clashes, Putin recalled. "The then leadership of the Soviet Union took no effective action to ensure safety of the people. Armenians took up arms and did it themselves," he noted. "Whether what they did was good or bad, but it was initially the negative developments on the ethnic ground that prompted them to action," he added. This brought Nagorno-Karabakh itself and seven territories of Azerbaijan under the control of Armenia, Putin noted. Now, Azerbaijan insists on its right to get the seven territories that have nothing to do with the ethnic conflict back, and then to look into who Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to, he added. "Everyone has their own truth. There are no simple solutions, since the knot is tied in a very complicated way," the Russian leader stressed.

Russia’s position remains open, he emphasized. "We initially went on a premise that the possibility of transferring five plus two regions to Azerbaijan must be discussed with ensuring a certain regime for the Karabakh zone and cooperation with Armenia," he explained.

According to the president, the conflict must be settled so that people could feel safe; at the same time conditions must be created for an efficient development of the territories. "[This] would make it possible, including for many of the participants in our today’s discussion, to take part in the development of these territories, to invest," the president noted. "And there is room for investment there. People are very efficient and talented in both of these countries," he stressed.

The decades-long conflict hinders an efficient development of the two sides, he added. An end must be put to hostilities and casualties at the first stage, the parties must sit down to the negotiating table and find a consensus and a balance of interests based on proposals from the OSCE Minsk Group, Putin believes.

Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia have imposed martial law and launched mobilization efforts. Both parties to the conflict have reported casualties, among them civilians.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the highland region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them. Talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been ongoing since 1992 under the OSCE Minsk Group, led by its three co-chairs - Russia, France and the United States.