Azerbaijani officials have announced that the country is nearing a peace agreement with Armenia, potentially ending their long-standing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. This comes after Azerbaijan's decisive military offensive in September, which led to the control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the displacement of over 100,000 people from the region. The Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing, a claim Azerbaijan denies.
According to The Guardian, the two countries have accelerated peace talks to stabilize relations and recognize each other's borders. In a rare gesture of goodwill, they exchanged prisoners of war on December 13 and issued a joint statement, one of the first not mediated by a third party.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with Pashinyan on December 26 in St. Petersburg for bilateral talks, marking their first encounter since the mass exodus.
Seven drafts of a potential peace agreement have been exchanged, with Azerbaijan awaiting Armenia's response to the latest proposals. The draft agreement includes principles of mutual respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty, rejection of territorial claims, and opening communication routes between the two nations.
Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, has been a point of contention, with major powers like Turkey, Russia, Iran, the US, and the EU vying for influence in this strategically critical area. The peace agreement also addresses the issue of border demarcation and proposes a bilateral commission to address misunderstandings or differences in interpretations.
One unresolved issue is the link between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan. Armenia agreed to open a land transportation link through its territory as part of a ceasefire agreement in November 2020, but progress has been slow. Azerbaijan is considering an alternative route through Iran if Armenia continues to resist the link.