In a landmark breakthrough leaders from Armenia and Azerbaijan pledged to mutually recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty at the European Political Community summit held in Prague on October 6. The meeting reportedly lasted hours and was mediated by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and French president Emanuel Macron.
Tonight, Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Alma Ata 1991 Declaration through which both recognize each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 7, 2022
The meeting took place just weeks after the most recent border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, resulting in the deadliest fighting since the second Karabakh war between the two countries in 2020. According to statements by both countries, more than 200 service personnel were killed in the recent flare-up. On September 15, the two countries signed a ceasefire, mediated by Russia.
A week later, the two countries traded fresh accusations with statements issued by both countries’ defense ministries, pointing fingers at the other over the renewed clashes on September 28. Armenia claimed three of its soldiers died as a result. Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense said the incident was Armenia's fault.
Then, on October 2, video footage circulated on social media, “appeared to show Azerbaijani soldiers executing several Armenian prisoners of war at close range,” reported Radio Liberty. Kristine Grigoryan, Armenia's Human Rights Defender, said the video was filmed on September 13, during the recent escalation, according to internal investigations and reporting by OC Media. Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense said the Military Prosecutor's Office will investigate the footage as per a statement issued by the Ministry. Earlier, another video emerged, “appeared to show the mutilation of a female Armenian soldier by Azerbaijani troops during the same fighting.” According to Radio Liberty reporting, there were counter videos that appeared to show Armenian soldiers insulting the corpses of Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians. The EU special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar, called for investigations into videos:
Today I have been sent several videos apparently showing war crimes committed against Azerbaijanis. Also these need to be investigated and if authentic perpetrators need to be held responsible. The conflict has left deep wounds on both sides and to heal accountability is needed.
— Toivo Klaar (@ToivoKlaar) October 2, 2022
The British Embassy in Azerbaijan expressed its concern in a Facebook post:
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price called for full and impartial investigations into the videos:
The United States is deeply disturbed by recent reports of Azerbaijani soldiers executing unarmed Armenian prisoners. We call for a full and impartial investigation. Those responsible for any atrocities must be held to account.
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) October 3, 2022
Grim but possible prospects for peace
In April 2022, President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan won't recognize “Armenia's territorial integrity unless Yerevan signs a bilateral peace deal in line with proposals made by Baku.” Baku's proposal was based on a five-point plan which included pledges to recognize each country's territorial integrity, border demarcation, open transportation links between the two territories, and an agreement to abstain from threats.
President Ilham Aliyev, on his part, repeated the importance of the principles while answering questions from journalists on October 6 in Prague. “Today, during the meeting with the President of France, I saw that these five principles are being accepted. These are principles based on relations between states interested in normalizing relations with each other,” said President Aliyev, adding that the “work on the text of the peace agreement should begin on the basis of these principles.”
Meanwhile, in Prague, the meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan also led to an agreement to “a civilian EU mission alongside their common border.” According a statement issued by the Council of Europe, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian agreed to “facilitate a civilian EU mission alongside the border with Azerbaijan,” while Azerbaijan said, it “agreed to cooperate with this mission as far as it is concerned.” The mission will start in October and will last approximately two months.
Also on October 3, Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in Geneva to kick off the work on the future peace treaty. The next day, Azerbaijan reportedly returned 17 prisoners of war to Armenia.
The following weeks will show how committed the two countries are to achieving peace, despite looming fears of another war.