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In an exclusive interview with the Armenian News - NEWS.am EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia Toivo Klaar has commented on the trilateral meeting of the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and European Council President Charles Michel held in Brussels on 22 May.

According to European Council President’s statement following the Brussel’s trilateral summit, the leaders agreed on the need to start unblocking transport links and on principles governing transit between western Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan, and between different parts of Armenia via Azerbaijan. Please, clarify what “transit between different parts of Armenia via Azerbaijan” means: does it also include the possible transit in case Armenia passes to Azerbaijan the territories that Baku considers as “its exclaves”?

The leaders looked at broad principles which would provide a framework to govern future transit and international transport once the connectivity infrastructure is unblocked. Details will be worked out by Deputy Prime Ministers.

To my knowledge, the particular issue of exclaves/enclaves was not discussed by the leaders during their meeting on 22 May in Brussels. I believe it was not particularly discussed by them as a separate agenda point on previous occasions either. 

Charles Michel’s statement that he has stressed to both leaders the necessity of addressing the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh, has been perceived in Armenia as a sign, that the possibility of ensuring the rights and security of the Nagorno-Karabakh people within Azerbaijan is on the agenda of negotiations. Can you, please, specify, what Charles Michel meant by the above-mentioned phrasing? What is the EU’s position on the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the right of the Nagorno-Karabakh people to self-determination?

President Michel emphasized the fact that, in his view, in addition to talks on inter-state relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it was important to address the issue of the rights and security of the ethnic Armenian population in Karabakh. Interstate relations are naturally very important and need to be normalized. As we know very well, rights and security in an inter-ethnic context were among the core issues at the origin of the conflict. Without addressing this topic, we cannot arrive at a comprehensive lasting solution.

As far as status and self-determination are concerned, the EU has always had a clear position: we will support any agreement that would guarantee a long-term sustainable solution. Peace processes tend to be accompanied by fears, emotions, speculations, and misinterpretations – this is natural. 

In this context, it is important that the process be as transparent as possible so that societies have a clear understanding of what is being discussed. 

There is also a need to defuse tensions and lower the rhetoric. The EU welcomed the remarks made by Armenian Prime Minister N. Pashinyan in Parliament on 13 April and also recent positions expressed by Azerbaijani President I. Aliyev on the need to turn the page of enmity and ensure a safe and positive future for all conflict-affected populations on the ground, be it the ethnic Armenian population or the displaced persons from past hostilities.

During the call conversation with the Turkish President, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that among the agreements reached in Brussels on May 22, was the one on opening the so-called “Zangezur corridor”. The Armenian side has denied this. Are you aware of any such agreement reached in Brussels?

On this particular aspect, I want to reiterate that the discussions in Brussels addressed the issue of connectivity and principles for reopening communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan based on the sovereignty of both countries. 

The EU also sometimes uses the term “transport corridor” when talking about roads or railways inside the EU.

It is important to stress here that both sides explicitly acknowledged that there were no extraterritorial claims in relation to the communications that would be reopened. It is good to be clear about that as this allows us to address concerns and misperceptions which are sometimes raised in this context where confidence still needs to deepen. 

The parties also discussed practical arrangements for border controls, fees, safety and security, and in the case of international transport to third countries, also customs.

On our side, we hope that the discussion between the leaders on Sunday will pave the way to unblocking these roads as the connectivity potential, also with an emphasis on the growing opportunities of the “Middle Corridor” transit between Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the EU in mind.

We warmly welcome the first meeting of the border commissions that took place today, 24 May, on the inter-state border between the Deputy Prime Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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