Yerevan, Baku put out competing read-outs of latest high-level call

By Mark Dovich

The Armenian and Azerbaijani governments have released notably differing statements on Tuesday’s call between Foreign Ministers Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Both Yerevan and Baku acknowledged the call took place at Washington’s initiative as a follow-up to Mirzoyan and Bayramov’s meeting Sunday in Geneva, but the similarities in the two sides’ statements largely ended there.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said Mirzoyan stressed the need for Azerbaijan to withdraw its forces from Armenia, release all Armenians in its captivity, and respect the fragile ceasefire that ended last month’s hostilities.

In addition, Mirzoyan called for “the introduction of international mechanisms to monitor and control the border situation” and “the creation of a discussion mechanism between Stepanakert and Baku.”

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said Bayramov called for steps to delimit the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the “reintegration of the population of Armenian origin living in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.”

The U.S. read-out of the call was more general, with Blinken saying he “expressed our appreciation for the positive steps Armenia and Azerbaijan are taking towards reaching a sustainable peace agreement” and “reiterated our commitment to helping Armenia and Azerbaijan resolve issues peacefully.”

In addition, Blinken said he welcomed Baku’s decision Tuesday to release 17 Armenian prisoners of war in its captivity, an agreement that Yerevan has said was reached with Washington’s mediation.

The weeks since Azerbaijan’s unprecedented assault on Armenia last month have seen a flurry of high-level contacts between Armenia and Azerbaijan and deepening diplomatic engagement by Western countries, particularly the United States.

Washington is believed to have played a key role in brokering the fragile ceasefire that ended the fighting, and U.S. officials have since brokered a number of meetings between senior Armenian and Azerbaijani officials.

Blinken convened a meeting between Mirzoyan and Bayramov at the United Nations, while U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hosted Armen Grigoryan, the head of Armenia’s Security Council, and Hikmet Hajiyev, a senior foreign policy advisor to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, at the White House.

Philip Reeker and Brice Roquefeuil, the U.S. and French envoys to the Minsk Group, also took part in Sunday’s talks in Geneva, while Russia’s Minsk Group co-chair, Igor Khovaev, was notably absent.

Russia, the region’s traditional security guarantor, appears preoccupied by its war against Ukraine, and a Russian-led military alliance pointedly declined to send military assistance to Armenia after last month’s clashes.