By Mark Dovich
Following talks in Brussels on Sunday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to convene a border commission “in the coming days” and meet again in Brussels in July or August, according to a statement by European Council President Charles Michel.
Michel said that the long-discussed commission “will take place on the inter-state border” and “address all questions related to the delimitation of the border and how best to ensure a stable situation,” without providing further details.
It remains unclear exactly when and where the commission will meet, or who will take part.
At a meeting in Brussels last month, Pashinyan and Aliyev reportedly reached an agreement to form a joint commission to delimit their countries’ border and ensure security along it, but the group still has not been set up.
Last week, Baku and Yerevan traded accusations over the commission and offered conflicting explanations why it still had not met.
Aliyev said that Armenia has so far canceled scheduled meetings of the border group twice, a claim that an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman then denied. In contrast, Armenian officials have said that the commission has not yet met due to “technicalities,” without any further explanation.
The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is officially undelimited and undemarcated, as it was once an internal Soviet boundary, meaning that officially defining it was not an issue of concern for the authorities at the time.
Delimitation refers to the process by which a border is legally defined, while demarcation involves the process of physically marking a border, such as by building a fence or wall.
In addition, Pashinyan and Aliyev “agreed on the need to proceed with unblocking the transport links” and “to advance discussions on the future peace treaty governing inter-state relations,” Michel said.
The two countries’ deputy prime ministers will reportedly spearhead transport unblocking, while the foreign ministers will take the lead on preparing a peace treaty.
The November 2020 ceasefire document signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan and brokered by Russia includes a commitment to unblocking “all economic and transport connections in the region,” but so far no progress has been made.
In particular, the issue of establishing an overland connection between mainland Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan exclave via Armenian territory has emerged as a major sticking point. Baku has consistently called for the route to have the status of a corridor, which Yerevan has ruled out.
Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey have been closed since the early 1990s, when Baku and Ankara imposed a devastating economic blockade on Yerevan that remains in place to this day.
Notably, Michel’s statement urged that “the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh be addressed,” but did not mention the issue of the region’s status, which has long been at the heart of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
Pashinyan and Aliyev “will meet again in the same format by July (or) August,” Michel added. He has already hosted the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in Brussels twice, once last December, and again this April.
Michel also met separately with both leaders Sunday evening.