Territorial integrity and self-determination ‘equal’ in Karabakh conflict, Germany says

By Mark Dovich

The competing principles of territorial integrity and self-determination are “equal” in the Karabakh conflict, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said at a press conference Thursday alongside Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

“It is necessary to reach a peaceful settlement from the point of view of the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the self-determination of the citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Scholz told reporters. “These principles are equally applicable.”

Scholz noted that Germany remains “concerned about instability on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the worsening humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh,” adding that “the status quo cannot continue.”

Pashinyan was in Germany for high-level talks, just weeks after his foreign minister paid a trip to the country to discuss Azerbaijan’s blockade of Karabakh, now past its 80th day.

The Armenian government said in a press release that Pashinyan and Scholz discussed a wide range of topics, including the European Union’s decision earlier this year to deploy a civilian monitoring mission to Armenia, marking a major intervention by Brussels into the conflict.

Pashinyan said Thursday that Yerevan and Brussels are planning to sign “a document regulating the presence of the monitoring mission in the near future,” but did not elaborate.

“I would like to once again express our gratitude to the German government…and express my belief that this mission will play a significant role in establishing peace and security in the region,” he added.

Last month, the EU dispatched 50 unarmed monitors to the Armenian side of the border with Azerbaijan for two years. They are based only on the Armenian side of the border because Azerbaijan did not agree to allow them into territories it controls. Russia has repeatedly condemned the move as outside meddling in the region.

Markus Ritter, the head of the mission, is a German federal police officer with nearly three decades of law enforcement experience, a fact that Scholz highlighted Thursday.

A reporter also asked the Armenian and German leaders directly about the issue of Russia’s efforts to evade sanctions imposed in response to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, prompting Pashinyan to hit back against “mere rumors” that Yerevan is helping Moscow circumvent sanctions.

Scholz noted that he and Pashinyan had “talked about that too” behind closed doors, declining to go into further detail.

Armenia’s exports to countries in the Eurasian Economic Union, a Russian-led trade bloc, nearly tripled last year to about $1.6 billion, according to data compiled last month by the Eurasian Development Bank. That means that the Eurasian Economic Union accounted for almost half of Armenia’s total exports in 2022.

The surge in exports has raised questions about how much of the growth can be attributed to Armenia importing products and then re-exporting them to Russia in a process the Kremlin calls “parallel imports.”

While Pashinyan was in Berlin, the U.S. government released a compliance note on Russia’s sanctions evasion efforts, specifically naming Armenia as one of several “transshipment points commonly used to illegally redirect restricted items to Russia or Belarus.”

Meanwhile, David O’Sullivan, the EU’s sanctions envoy, warned in an interview last week with the Financial Times that European officials are closely watching “unusual spikes in trade” between Russia and nearby countries.

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