BRUSSELS — An end to decades of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be in sight, European Council President Charles Michel said Sunday following negotiations between the two sides.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after hosting a trilateral meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Michel said the two leaders “shared a common willingness for a South Caucasus at peace.”
“Following the recent positive talks held in the U.S. on the peace treaty, the momentum should be maintained to take decisive steps towards the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement,” Michel added.
At the same time, he declared that the two sides had “made clear progress” in talks over unblocking transport links and suggested a prisoner exchange could be carried out in the coming days.
Michel also encouraged direct negotiations between Baku and the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized breakaway region over which the two former Soviet republics fought a brutal war in 2020.
In April, Azerbaijan installed a checkpoint on the internationally-recognized border, taking control of the only road into or out of the region. While officials say the move is necessary to stop illegal arms shipments, Yerevan says it could be a precedent for “ethnic cleansing” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.
Diplomats from the two countries met in Washington earlier this month, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying “tangible” progress had been made toward a peace deal. Their foreign ministers are expected to meet again in Moscow starting Friday.
Later on Sunday after the talks with Michel, however, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of opening fire with mortars from across the border. Yerevan denies the claims. Both sides have reported casualties in fierce firefights on the tense frontier in recent days.