Leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia sign pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the South Caucasian region, in post-war meeting held in Moscow.

Russia's President Putin meets with Azerbaijan's President Aliyev and Armenia's Prime Minister Pashinyan in Moscow, on January 11, 2021.
Russia's President Putin meets with Azerbaijan's President Aliyev and Armenia's Prime Minister Pashinyan in Moscow, on January 11, 2021. (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has brought together the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan for the first time since a war last year over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in an effort to resolve problems that risk undermining the truce that ended the conflict.

Putin said on Monday the ceasefire deal, which saw Moscow deploy peacekeepers was being implemented without serious incident and the talks had been useful.

"We were able to agree and sign a joint declaration on developing the region," he said. 

"I'm talking about concrete steps to build economic links and to develop (transport) infrastructure projects."

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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said it has not been possible to broker an exchange of remaining prisoners, however.

But he, and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, indicated progress in other areas, with both talking positively about economic and infrastructure prospects.

Aliyev said his country would have a rail link for the first time in over three decades with Nakhchivan, an Azeri exclave that borders Turkey and Iran, and that landlocked Armenia, via Azeri territory would get rail links with Russia and Iran.

The atmosphere at the talks was frosty. 

Pashinyan and Aliyev did not shake hands, only exchanging curt greetings when they sat down in the Kremlin opposite Putin.

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Karabakh conflict

Relations between the former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as Azerbaijani territory, and seven adjacent regions.

When new clashes erupted on September 27, 2020, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and even violated humanitarian ceasefire agreements.

During the six-week-long conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages, while at least 2,802 of its soldiers were killed. 

There are differing claims about the number of casualties on the Armenian side, which, sources and officials say, could be up to 5,000.

Turkish-Russian peacekeepers 

The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on November 10 to end the fighting and work towards a comprehensive resolution.

A joint Turkish-Russian centre is being established to monitor the truce. Russian peacekeeping troops have also been deployed in the region.

The ceasefire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have withdrawn in line with the agreement.

Violations, however, have been reported in the past few weeks, with some Armenian soldiers said to have been hiding in the mountainous enclave.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies