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HomeWorldAsiaEU, Russia and US held secret talks days before Azerbaijan military operation

EU, Russia and US held secret talks days before Azerbaijan military operation

Senior officials from the EU, Russia and the US met in tacit emergency talks in Turkey to resolve the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, POLITICO reports.

The meeting took place days before Azerbaijan launched a military operation to seize the breakaway territory from ethnic Armenian control.Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February 2022, this meeting has been a rare contact between Russia and the West on one of the most important security issues.

According to a senior diplomat familiar with the discussions, the meeting took place on 17 September in Istanbul. The sides tried to influence Azerbaijan to end the nine-month blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and allow humanitarian cargoes of food and fuel from Armenia to pass through.

The US sent Luis Bono, Washington’s senior advisor for Caucasus negotiations, and from the EU side Toivo Klaara took part. Igor Khovayev represented Russia. He is Putin’s special representative for relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Such diplomatic meeting is rare. In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met face-to-face on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in India, but Moscow insisted that the exchange took place “on the move” and that no negotiations had taken place. In a statement provided to POLITICO, an EU official said:

“We believe it is important to maintain channels of communications with relevant interlocutors to avoid misunderstandings.”

He also noted that Klaar had recently sought to maintain open contacts on many fronts, including in talks with Khovayev and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin.

A spokesman for the US State Department did not comment on the meeting. He said only “we do not comment on private diplomatic discussions.”

The US official, on condition of anonymity, said the discussion was based on the understanding that the Kremlin still has influence in the region. He said:

“We need to be able to work with the Russians on this because they do have influence over the parties, especially as we’re at a precarious moment right now.”

On 19 September, Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani army fought fierce battles for 24 hours, killing hundreds of people on both sides and forcing Karabakh’s Armenian leaders to capitulate. Since then, according to the Armenian government, more than 100,000 people have fled their homes and crossed the border, fearing for their lives.

Azerbaijan insists it has the right to take action against “illegal armed formations” on its internationally recognised territory and has promised to “reintegrate” those who remain. European Council President Charles Michel called the military operation “devastating” and Blinken joined calls for Azerbaijan to “refrain from further hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and ensure unimpeded humanitarian access”.

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