Russia open to return of occupied lands in Karabakh to Azerbaijan: Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is open to the return of the occupied lands of the south Caucasus region of Karabakh to Baku, in an effort to put an end to weeks of heavy fighting between Republic of Azerbaijan and Republic of Armenia.
The Russian leader, who has so far brokered two ceasefire deals between the two Caucasus nations, said on Thursday that his government “is absolutely open with regard to the possibility of handing over,” the occupied regions to Azerbaijan.
During more than a month of fighting in and around Karabakh, Azerbaijani forces have managed to take control of a large proportion of the mainly flat and sparsely populated territory, south of Karabakh.
Putin said on Thursday that he agrees to the return of “these five plus two [surrounding] districts to Azerbaijan, alongside the provision of a specific regime for the Karabakh zone and the securing of a link with Armenia.”
“[We must] find a balance of interests that would suit both sides,” he said, adding that “the interests of both the Azerbaijani people, whom we treat with unwavering respect, and the Armenian people, should be taken into account.”
“Each side has its own truth. There are no simple solutions,” Putin added.
Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is held by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan since 1992, when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.
The conflict re-erupted in late September, becoming the worst fighting in the region in decades.
Following the flare-up, Russia brokered two ceasefires to bring an end to the deadly conflict, but its efforts to bring peace to the mountainous region failed as Yerevan and Baku continued to violate the agreements.
Iran, Russia share common approach on Karabakh
In the meantime, Iran, the other regional power, also put forward an initiative to bring peace to the disputed region, as all former peace efforts in Karabakh have so far ended in failure.
On a regional tour on Thursday, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi paid visits to Moscow, Baku and Yerevan to present Tehran’s proposal
He said the proposal is based on humanitarian principles and attention to the demands of the warring parties.
Araghchi, met his Russian counterpart Sergei Ryabkov in Moscow, after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister for Central Asia and Caucasus Andrei Rudenko.
“Today in Moscow,” Araghci said in a tweet, “I had a useful meeting and proposed the Iran initiative.”
“Iran and Russia share common approaches toward the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added.
Prior to his visit to Moscow, Aragchi met Azeri officials in Baku and later left the Azeri capital for Yerevan, where he said he had very intensive and useful talks in Baku and Moscow.
Earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif informed his Azeri counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov of the nature of a proposal by Tehran for resolution of the long-drawn-out conflict.
According to Zarif, the proposal foresees the Islamic Republic, Turkey, and Russia forming a trio that would boost a standing Minsk Group that has failed to resolve the territorial dispute.