Caucasus Reality 12 january — 13:42

Putin's chronicler about historical meeting in Moscow: Pashinyan was again persuaded on all points they wanted...



On January 11, in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. Kommersant's special correspondent Andrei Kolesnikov, dubbed 'Putin's chronicler' by the Russian media, draws attention to the fact that as a result of four-hour talks, a statement was signed, which Nikol Pashinyan did not intend to sign before the talks began. Azeri Daily presents to its readers Andrei Kolesnikov's report from the meeting in Moscow.

Even in the morning of the day the talks began, there was no certainty that the Armenian prime minister would come to Moscow. Even his personal readiness was not a decisive argument. There were fragmentary reports from Armenia about, for example, some Armenian enthusiasts trying to prevent the plane from taking off with Nikol Pashinyan on board.

Nevertheless, at about 11 am, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan arrived in Moscow.

The Armenian prime minister and the Azerbaijani president, having met at the Kremlin, shook hands with the Russian president, but did not shake hands with each other (that would be, indeed, completely overkill).

It was clear that Ilham Aliyev, approaching Vladimir Putin, wanted to confine himself to the outstretched hand, since, apparently, he could not imagine the limits of the protocol hospitality of his Russian colleague, but when he saw that Vladimir Putin reached out to him, he responded with increased enthusiasm and embraced president of Russia. The same happened with the prime minister of Armenia, who entered the room a little later.

At the same time, the president of Azerbaijan did not pretend that the prime minister of Armenia was not in the room and nodded to him generously.

In response, Nikol Pashinyan also greeted him, though not so demonstratively, as if to himself.

As soon as they were seated (at a safe distance, though social distance was hardly the main consideration here), they brought Mr Pashinyan his briefcase, from which, even before Vladimir Putin began to speak, he began almost feverishly to take out some papers, not knowing apparently that immediately after the welcoming speech of the president of Russia, they would all move to the next room, where a table had already been set, and that the papers would have to be collected again in the briefcase.

Ilham Aliyev did not need any papers: he had everything in his head as usual. And was it really difficult to remember the names of the liberated districts in Nagorno-Karabakh? And for obvious reasons, nothing could be more significant for him.

And the purpose of the negotiations for him was to secure his victory even more fundamentally.

What was Nikol Pashinyan's goal, only he could tell. Before the trip, he at least told his supporters and opponents in Armenia that it was necessary to rescue Armenian soldiers from Azerbaijani captivity.

Vladimir Putin made it clear that it was he who invited his colleagues to Moscow, before that, in November, having offered them the very same famous negotiations: 'We were in constant contact, together we were looking for a compromise. It was as a result of our joint efforts, after intensive, including, as you remember, nightly, telephone conversations on November 9, that a trilateral statement was agreed, which we signed with you. As you know, this basic document is primarily about the complete cessation of hostilities, about the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the region and, what is especially important, about providing the civilian population affected by the armed clashes with all-round and effective assistance in returning to normal life.'

The Russian president explained what he himself had been guided by in these decisive negotiations: 'Today we can state with satisfaction that the trilateral agreements are being consistently implemented. We are convinced that this creates the necessary prerequisites for a long-term and full-scale settlement of the long-standing conflict on a fair basis, in the interests of both the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.'

The key phrase here was 'fair basis.' That is, he was guided by his own ideas about justice: what had been seized 30 years ago should be given back.

'At the request of the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides, a Russian peacekeeping contingent has been deployed to control the observance of the ceasefire on the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor,' Mr Putin continued. 'A system has been created to effectively enforce the ceasefire. There are 23 observation posts in the area of ​​responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers. Four additional posts are responsible for traffic safety along the corridor. Now the situation in the region is calm. We are doing a lot for the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees. Over 48 thousand people have already returned to Karabakh since November 14. With the mediation of Russia, the exchange of prisoners and bodies of the dead was carried out.'

The last phrase could later be interpreted so that the exchange, in the opinion of the Russian side, was completed. In fact, there were still enough prisoners of war, and Nikol Pashinyan, during the negotiations, which would continue for almost four more hours, would insist on new exchanges.

Indirectly, the Russian president confirmed this position: 'I think that today it would be important, first of all, to outline the next steps in the key areas of settlement, outlined in the joint statement of November 9 last year. I mean the issues related to the activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, clarification of demarcation lines, solution of humanitarian problems, protection of cultural heritage sites.'

That is, he did not say anything about the exchange of prisoners of war, approving the agenda.

After four hours of closed negotiations, three of their participants came out... I wanted to write to the press, but there was no press there. That is, they went to the microphones. And it was interesting. Indeed, according to Kommersant's information, the Armenian side, prior to the start of the talks, categorically refused any statements and signing any documents. And now the document, as it turned out, would be signed.

This indicated that it was not so difficult to cope with Nikol Pashinyan in Moscow.

And now the three of them stood at the microphones, no longer keeping any distance, and again Mr Putin spoke first (and Mr Pashinyan, getting ready for his own speech and, apparently nervous, was actively stroking himself on both sides and pockets):

'First of all, I want to thank my colleagues -- both the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia -- for agreeing to come to Moscow today, to meet in order to discuss issues related to the implementation of the terms of our peace agreement of November 9 last year. I consider today's meeting extremely important and useful, because we were able to come to an agreement and signed a joint statement on the development of the situation in the region.'

It was also unclear to Mr Putin that such a statement would be signed.

'I mean concrete steps to build economic ties, develop infrastructure projects,' he continued. 'For this purpose, a working group will be created, which will be headed by the deputy prime ministers of the three governments -- Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. They will set up working expert subgroups in the near future, present concrete plans for the development of transport infrastructure and the region's economy.'

Ilham Aliyev's speech was peaceful. It could contain meaningful hints, including those offensive to Armenian pride, and omissions of the same nature, but consider that they were not there.

'The statement that was signed today speaks of our intentions. Because one of the points of the statement following the cessation of hostilities was the unblocking of transport communications,' Ilham Aliyev reported.

For him, the topic of transport communications was the main one in this statement.

And only once Ilham Aliyev could not resist: 'All this instils confidence that, as Vladimir Vladimirovich once said, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a thing of the past...'

At these words, Nikol Pashinyan even turned away and lowered his eyes. He didn't like this idea. He did not believe that all this was now in the past, including, therefore, himself.

And the prime minister of Armenia, before starting to speak, sighed deep and heavy.

'...Unfortunately, this conflict has not yet been resolved... Of course, it remains... um... We managed to ensure a ceasefire...' the Armenian prime minister hesitated. 'There are still many issues that need to be resolved. One of these issues is the status... The issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh...'

There is no such question for Ilham Aliyev. And Nikol Pashinyan wanted to say, suffering and choosing expressions, that nothing ended for him and his country, but just they stopped shooting -- apparently temporarily.

But these were words for internal use, that is, for Armenia. In fact, today he was again persuaded on all the points which they wanted.

'And we, of course... Armenia is ready to continue negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship, in particular on this issue,' added the Armenian prime minister. 'Unfortunately, today we were unable to resolve the issue of prisoners of war, and this is the most sensitive and painful issue. Because this is a humanitarian issue, and we agreed that we will continue to work (he finally looked towards Ilham Aliyev - A.K.) in this direction. We believe, in particular, that the eighth point of our joint statement, unfortunately, is not fully implemented (this is the point on the exchange of prisoners of war and the bodies of the dead - A.K.). I hope that we will be able to come to a concrete solution as soon as possible. But I must say that the statement that we have signed today is really very important, and I will not hide the fact that the implementation of the agreements of this statement can simply change the economic image and appearance of our region (each of them said 'our region,' but still implied, apparently, not Nagorno-Karabakh - A.K.), and economic innovations can also lead to more reliable security guarantees, and we, of course, are ready to work constructively in this direction, but, as I said, during one meeting it is impossible to resolve all issues. And I hope that we will continue to advance, and for us too, I want to emphasise once again the main issue at the moment are the humanitarian issues, the exchange of prisoners of war, which are provided for in paragraph 8 of our joint statement of November 9 or 10 (Moscow and Armenian-Azerbaijani time differs in this situation by one day - A.K.).'

Having said this, Nikol Pashinyan, who fought for the prisoners of war in the eyes of his compatriots and in his own, left for the airport, while Ilham Aliyev remained in the Kremlin.

And now he met with Vladimir Putin tête-à-tête (this, according to Kommersant's information, was agreed in advance). He had nowhere to rush. It seems that he still uses every excuse to once again enjoy his victory.

Ilham Aliyev told the details of the just signed statement:

'The statement is aimed at creating a completely new situation in our region, unblocking transport communications. This is of great importance for us, because in this way, after more than 30 years, Azerbaijan will have a connection with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of the Republic of Azerbaijan using transport communications through the territory of Armenia. Armenia will have a railway connection to Russia and Iran through the territory of Azerbaijan. We will also have access to the Turkish market through the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. And also Turkish and Russian railway arteries will be connected. That is, this statement opens up great prospects!'

That is, he and Vladimir Putin apparently believe that with this statement they have cemented the previous one, of November 9-10.

After it, there should be no time to talk about the war, and even less for the war itself. It would be enough to have time to benefit from the unblocking of transport arteries that had existed 30 years ago and the construction of new ones.

'And the situation that has developed between Armenia and Azerbaijan and has been developing over the years was eventually resolved, and I am sure that there will be no attempts by the Armenian side to revise the statement of November 9, so that both peoples find the will and wisdom to think about the future and about reconciliation,' concluded Ilham Aliyev.

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