The Russian president explained why Russia supported the return to Azerbaijan of the territories occupied by Armenia since the 90s.
Russian President Vladimir Putin explained Russia‘s position in the recent conflict over the Karabakh region between Armenia and Azerbaijan during a conference in Moscow on Thursday, insisting once again that international law considers that territory of the South Caucasus as an integral part of Azerbaijan.
“From an international law point of view, all these territories are an integral part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Thus we established our position in the Minsk Group, in which Russia, the United States and France are co-chairs. For many years, we have always assumed that the 7 areas around Nagorno-Karabakh (occupied by Armenia) should be returned to Azerbaijan,” Putin said.
The Russian leader added however that the current status of Nagorno-Karabakh (the area inhabited mostly by Armenians) should be maintained, noting that the so-called Lachin corridor created after the recent peace agreement to connect the region with Armenia serves this purpose. Putin also said that Russia’s view is that the Nagorno-Karabakh status quo should change in the future, although he did not specify whether that means that the region should be recognised as part of Armenia.
Putin rules out foreign interference in the conflict
Asked about Turkey’s position in the conflict, Putin once again defended the position taken by Ankara: “Turkey defended, because it believed so, the just cause of Azerbaijan: that is, the return of the territories that were occupied during the conflict of the 90s”. Putin also rejected speculation that the recent conflict that began in September had been provoked from outside.
“The tension has lasted many years,” he recalled. “I do not think it was due to foreign interference. Many times there have been tensions, fighting, and small skirmishes. As a result, it ended up leading to a conflict,” said Putin, who had previously explained that since Karabakh is not a territory of Armenia, Russia had no obligation to defend it under the mutual defence agreement between the two countries.
In this regard, the Russian president stressed the importance of the peace agreement reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the mediation of Russia. “This agreement on the cessation of hostilities is very important. Because it has stopped the bloodshed, civilians have stopped dying: this is something extremely important, it is something fundamental. Everything else is secondary. Saving the lives and health of people is the most important task we have done,” he insisted.
Regarding a possible increase in the peacekeeping forces deployed by Russia in Karabakh, Putin said that it can only be carried out with the agreement of all parties since the size of the Russian contingent was part of the negotiated agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan for the cessation of hostilities. “If it is concluded that it is necessary we will do it; if not, then we will not do it,” he added.
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He is the “old man” of the team, as we like to call him, although he still has a long way to go. A tireless traveller, he has travelled halfway around the world… and pretends to visit the other half!! A political science graduate, he is particularly passionate about the Middle East, the Caucasus and Greece.