Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed concern about increased tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday for the second time in just over two weeks.
The two leaders held fresh talks in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek on the sidelines of a Eurasian Economic Union summit. They previously met in Yerevan on November 23.
Pashinyan noted at the start of their conversation that the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia was blocked by a group of Azerbaijani officials for several hours on December 3.
“There are very big concerns in Nagorno-Karabakh about this,” he said, adding that he wants to discuss with Putin “all important issues of regional security.”
In his opening remarks, Putin made no mention of the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone. Instead, he touted growing Russian-Armenian trade which has solidified Russia’s status as Armenia’s number one trading partner.
The Azerbaijani government claimed that the officials from its ministries of environment and economy blocked a section of the road because they wanted to investigate “illegal” mining activity in Karabakh and its “ecological consequences.” It said that they and Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Karabakh agreed to work out a “roadmap to environmental monitoring” in the mining area.
Baku earlier accused Armenia of transporting weapons to Karabakh through the so-called Lachin corridor.
Armenian and Karabakh officials strongly denied that. They said Baku is seeking to close the corridor in breach of the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov reportedly complained on Thursday about “illegal” use of the Armenia-Karabakh highway in a phone call with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried.
Donfried also phoned Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mirzoyan told her that the situation in the conflict zone is volatile because “the likelihood of new Azerbaijani provocations remains high.”
Mirzoyan said on Wednesday that the conflicting sides continue to disagree on key provisions of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku.
Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council echoed that statement on Friday. He said the Azerbaijani side’s refusal to discuss security guarantees for Karabakh’s Armenian population is hampering progress towards the signing of the peace deal.
Grigorian stood by his claim that he and Hikmet Hajiyev, a senior Azerbaijani official, had agreed on an “international mechanism” for such discussions at their September meeting in Washington hosted by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Hajiyev flatly denied such an understanding earlier on Friday.