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Russia Says Peacekeepers Will Continue to be Deployed in Karabakh

YEREVAN (Azatutyun.am)—Russian peacekeepers should stay in Nagorno-Karabakh despite the restoration of Azerbaijani control over the territory and its almost complete depopulation, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said on Monday.

His remarks contrasted with other signals sent by Moscow in recent days. In particular, the official TASS news agency said on Friday that a Russian military delegation will visit Yerevan to discuss with Armenian officials the peacekeepers’ withdrawal from Karabakh.

The Russian Defense Ministry denied the report hours later. But it reported over the weekend that the peacekeepers continued to dismantle their observation posts along the Karabakh “line of contact” that existed until Azerbaijan’s September 19-20 military offensive.

“The role of our [peacekeeping] contingent is in demand, and I believe that it will also be necessary in the future,” Galuzin told the Russian news agency RBC. “Firstly, the question remains of making sure that those residents of Karabakh who stay there feel secure. It cannot be ruled out that some of those who left Karabakh today will at some stage decide to return, and the presence of peacekeepers will become an additional factor of calm for these people.”

“So I would not say that the activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh have exhausted themselves,” he said.

The number of Karabakh Armenians remaining in their homeland is believed to be negligible, a fact acknowledged by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. The more than 100,000 other residents of the region have fled to Armenia since September 20 because of being unwilling to live under Azerbaijani rule.

Nevertheless, Galuzin said, Moscow still believes that an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty discussed by the conflicting sides should address the issue of “the rights and security of Karabakh’s Armenian population.” It has presented Baku and Yerevan with “some ideas on this score,” he added without elaborating.

The Russian diplomat also said that Moscow hopes to broker the peace treaty and help the sides delimit the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and work out terms for opening it to trade and cargo shipments. He dismissed similar efforts by the European Union, claiming that their main goal is to drive Russia out of the South Caucasus.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev were expected to reach a framework peace deal on the sidelines of last week’s EU summit in Spain. However, Aliyev withdrew from the talks at the last minute, citing pro-Armenian statements made by France. European Council President Charles Michel indicated afterwards that he will likely hold a trilateral meeting with Aliyev and Pashinyan in Brussels later this month.

The Armenian government urged the Russian peacekeepers to step in to protect Karabakh’s population hours after the start of the Azerbaijani assault. The absence of such intervention led Yerevan to accuse Moscow of not honoring its obligations spelled out in a 2020 truce accord brokered by it.

Galuzin rejected the criticism. Echoing Putin’s statements, he said Pashinian himself downgraded the peacekeepers’ status and legitimized Baku’s military action by recognizing Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan during earlier talks with Aliyev organized by the EU.

The fall of Karabakh and the resulting exodus of its population added to unprecedented tensions between Russia and Armenia increasingly calling into question their long-running alliance. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Pashinyan on September 25 of seeking to ruin Russian-Armenian relations and reorient his country towards the West.

Galuzin reiterated Moscow’s condemnation of Yerevan’s “unfriendly” moves, notably the decision to recognize jurisdiction of an international court that issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March.

Despite the mounting tensions, Pashinyan phoned Putin on Saturday to congratulate him on his 71st birthday anniversary. Official readouts of the call said they discussed the situation in and around Karabakh.

Source : Asbarez