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Agreements between Moscow, Baku and Yerevan mitigate escalation risks in Karabakh - expert

Andrei Kortunov noted that although today’s agreements could not resolve other problems of the region, such as the one of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, which is "hanging in the air," the sides were moving in the right direction

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/. Agreements on new infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh that were reached on Monday by the Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan, will mitigate escalation risks in the region, a Russian expert told TASS on Monday.

"Any agreement, the more so the one in such an important sector as transport, seriously reduces risks of future escalation but gives no guarantees for a stable political settlement," said Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian Council on International Affairs, a thinktank. "In such situations, any economic and infrastructure agreements take on a political nature. If it is about transport corridors, it means security and some sort of cooperation between the Armenian and Azerbaijani ethnic groups."

The expert noted that although today’s agreements could not resolve other problems of the region, such as the one of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status, which is "hanging in the air," the sides were moving in the right direction. "Even the limited agreements that have been reached make it possible to say that the meeting was successful. Transport was chosen as a neutral, technical aspect of relations. With the first step made, the second and thirds steps are to follow. So, the opening of transport communications should be followed by issues of the exchange of prisoners, return of refugees, and co-living of two ethnic groups," he said.

Turkey’s non-participation

According to Kortunov, Turkey’s non-participation in the Moscow dialogue is quite demonstrative. "It means that Turkey is an important neighbor that cannot be absolutely excluded from what is currently going on in the South Caucasus but the Russian leadership has once again demonstrated that the key role in this settlement and post-settlement steps will be played by Moscow," he said, adding that it would be logical to involve the Turkish side in the discussion of infrastructure matters but Armenia is unlikely to accept such a format.

Pashinyan’s future

The expert noted that Pashinyan’s positions as the prime minister had somewhat consolidated but his political future was "quite vague."

"If we compare today’ situation with the situation when he was nearly ousted by the protesters in Yerevan, his positions have somewhat stabilized. Society has calmed down after a burst of emotions because of the failed war. Obviously, Pashinyan is now trying to make a maximum use of the international possibilities he has," Kortunov went on to say. "It is not about Russia only. It’s only natural that he has raised the issue of invigorating the OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts. He has hopes for participation of other co-chairs."

He noted that Armenian elites continued pressure on the prime minister and his future would depend on his ability to ensure socio-economic results, "keep Armenia’s presence in Nagorno-Karabakh, and make Baku begin the discussion of the region’s status."

About Moscow’s talks

Trilateral talks between the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh were held on Monday in Moscow on the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks yielded a joint statement on new infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh. A special trilateral working group will be set up to be in charge of such projects. The group will be co-chaired by the three countries’ deputy prime ministers. Putin and Aliyev noted that the November 9, 2020 joint statement on cessation of hostilities was generally observed. Pashinyan agreed that the sides had managed to ensure the ceasefire. The Azerbaijani leader hailed the efforts of the Russian peacekeeping mission.