An escalating spat between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan played out openly in front of Vladimir Putin yesterday, highlighting the depth of their differences over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev engaged in a heated argument at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow. The dispute centered on the Lachin corridor, a vital artery that connects Armenia to the Armenian-majority enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.
In December, Azerbaijani activists obstructed this corridor. Pashinyan argued that it should be under Russian peacekeepers’ control and criticized Azerbaijan for establishing a checkpoint along it. “Azerbaijan, unfortunately, has blocked this corridor,” Pashinyan declared.
Countering this, Aliyev asserted, “Azerbaijan did not block any corridor… There is no need to use this platform for unfounded accusations.”
The verbal back-and-forth lasted several minutes before Putin intervened, steering the conversation away from the contentious subject. The Russian ruler aimed to guide the meeting towards more productive dialogue and was set to conduct further trilateral talks with both leaders later in the day.
“We will now have the opportunity to talk about everything calmly,” Putin said, expressing hope that some agreements could foster “constructive development” in the region.
The two nations have been locked in conflict for three decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in two wars. Recently, however, there have been signs of a potential peace deal. Prior to the exchange, Aliyev noted “serious grounds for the normalization of relations” based on mutual respect for territorial integrity. The reality of these sentiments materializing into tangible peace, however, still remains uncertain.