Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that there would not be checkpoints on the Lachin Corridor, opposing Azerbaijan’s insistence for such a mechanism on the road that it has been blockading since December 12.
Lavrov, who was visiting Baku and met his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhum Bayramov, said that traffic through the Lachin corridor must be regulated in strict conformity with the November 9, 2020 agreement that placed the road under the control of Russian peacekeepers stationed in Artsakh.
“It [the agreement] calls for the free movement of solely civilian and humanitarian cargo and civilians,” Lavrov said after talks with Bayramov. “In our contacts, we are trying to achieve that first and foremost through the peacekeeping contingent. The setting up of any checkpoint there is not envisioned.”
“But it is possible to dispel, by technical means, suspicions that the corridor is not functioning as intended. We discussed that today,” he said, presumably referencing Azerbaijani allegations that Armenia is illegally transporting landmines to Artsakh through the corridor. Both Yerevan and Stepanakert have vehemently denied the Azerbaijani accusations.
Lavrov called for a “swift and full unblocking of traffic along the Lachin corridor” during a January 17 phone call with Bayramov. He said the following day that Moscow told Baku that the Russian peacekeepers “can check each vehicle for the absence of prohibited, non-humanitarian, non-civilian goods in it.”
The blockade has still not been lifted.
At a joint news conference with Lavrov after their meeting Bayramov expressed his displeasure with Armenia’s rejection of Azerbaijan’s demand to install a checkpoint at the Lachin corridor, and said he did not see any reasons why this should be rejected.
The Azerbaijani foreign minister also accused Armenia of misleading the international community and creating confusion about the situation. He pledged that Azerbaijan “will do everything to avoid negative humanitarian consequences for the Armenian population living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.”
Bayramov also said that “the legitimate demands of the representatives of the Azerbaijani civil society should be heard and fulfilled,” referring to the so-called environmental activists who, with Baku’s full cooperations, have been blockading the Lachin corridor and purporting that Armenia has violated environmental norms.
Lavrov announced that Azerbaijan has agreed to hold a meeting in Russia, but added that Armenia has not yet given a final response to Moscow’s proposal to mediate peace talks between the two countries.
Russia was to host a meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in December, but Yerevan backed out of the meeting saying its focus was on the Artsakh blockade, which had already begun by the Azerbaijani authorities.
“The Azerbaijani side is ready for it. The Armenian side has said that it does not object either, but has not yet given a final agreement. I don’t think that we will persistently offer our services,” Lavrov emphasized.
Lavrov also had strong words for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who last month alluded that Russian military presence was a threat to Armenia’s security. His government also welcomed a European Union mission to Armenia.
“We are seeing how the European Union is openly abusing its relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan, including through the advancement of its so-called mission in the territory of Armenia, which raises serious doubts about its legitimacy,” Lavrov said adding that EU mission in Armenia has raised many questions “including about its functions, mandate, duration and from the point of view of the added value that the mission can have in efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
“We are guided by the ‘do no harm’ principle in all our actions. We are guided by the principle of contributing to the solution of all emerging problems, which would firstly be based on the principled agreement of the three leaders within the framework of their four [trilateral] statements. Secondly, they would ensure mutually beneficial cooperation based on mutual respect between all the countries of the region. Not all players, first of all, those who are far from the South Caucasus, are guided by such principles and want to work here not for anything, but against someone. We see it, but I am convinced that the parties directly involved in the process see it,” Lavrov added.
Lavrov also hailed an “allied cooperation agreement” signed with Azerbaijan last year ahead of the Russian military campaign against Ukraine.
Calling the document “historic” Lavrov said that Russia is ready to engage “in the post-conflict reconstruction of Azerbaijani territories.”