Russia Brokers Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace
Azerbaijan and Armenia have reached a Russia-brokered peace deal, ending more than six weeks of conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Baku is hailing the agreement as a victory, while Armenians are treating it as a defeat, having agreed to cede some territories seized by Azerbaijan during the fighting.
A complete ceasefire came into force at midnight on November 10, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian president Vladimir Putin declared in a joint statement on the Kremlin's website. Armenia will return the Kalbajar district to Azerbaijan by November 15, followed by the Agdam district by November 20 and the Lachin district by December 1.
Russia will deploy peacekeeping forces along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and within the corridor that connects the region with Armenia. The ceasefire deal also involves the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies. Any displaced people will be able to return to Nagorno-Karabakh and the adjacent areas, and economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as belonging to Azerbaijan but has been run by ethnic Armenians since 1994, after a war that ended in a truce but no peace deal. Fighting erupted in late September, and Moscow has tried several times to broker a ceasefire. Russia is in a security pact with Armenia but also keeps close ties with Azerbaijan.
Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan said the deal was "incredibly painful both for me and for our people," adding "this is not a victory but there is not defeat until you consider yourself defeated." He said his decision was based on "deep analyses of the combat situation and in discussion with the best experts of the field."
The agreement has prompted anger in Armenia. Some protestors stormed parliament, making speeches in the main hall and destroying equipment in some lawmakers' offices. Armenia's own president, who under the country's parliamentary system has mostly a symbolic role, called for more discussion of the deal and said he had not been consulted.
In contrast there is jubilation in Azerbaijan. Aliyev said the deal was of "historic importance," and that he signed it with pride. The agreement will "return our territories without any further bloodshed," he said.
The conflict comes as Azerbaijan prepares to launch gas supplies to Europe before the end of this year once the final section of the Southern Gas Corridor, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, is commissioned. Azerbaijan also pumps over 700,000 b/d of oil westwards via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and via other routes. Some of the oil and gas pipelines run close to the conflict zone.