Roadmap to Achieving Peace in Azerbaijani-Armenian Negotiations

Azerbaijan and Armenia have reached a significant humanitarian and diplomatic agreement in a first-of-a-kind bilateral statement, without external participation. Azerbaijan agreed to release 32 Armenian military servicemen, while Armenia released two Azerbaijani military servicemen. The agreement also signifies the first time Azerbaijan and Armenia have coordinated on any international matter. Armenia has withdrawn its candidacy to host COP29 in support of Azerbaijan’s bid, and Azerbaijan is supporting Armenia’s candidature for membership in the Eastern European Group COP Bureau.

The choice of venue for COP29 requires unanimous consent from all parties, with Russia’s backing. The statement confirms the two countries’ intentions to normalize relations and reach a peace treaty based on sovereignty and territorial integrity. It concludes that they will continue discussions on implementing more confidence-building measures to positively impact the entire South Caucasus region. This agreement was worked out through direct contacts between the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan and the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. Direct bilateral talks, which Azerbaijan had insisted on for some time, can be more efficacious than mediated negotiations, which can provide the mediator with the opportunity to insert their own interests into the bilateral relationship, complicating negotiations.

Following the November 2020 Trilateral Statement, Russia dominated the peace process for a year, primarily preventing a full resolution of the conflict to maintain its South Caucasus influence. This monopoly began to be broken in December 2021 when President of the European Council Charles Michel hosted the first of several meetings between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Tangible progress continued through subsequent meetings in February, April, May, and August 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron’s involvement in the European Political Community summit in Prague led to a breakdown of the process, primarily due to the Grenada meeting fiasco.

Turkey, a key regional actor, was explicitly refused participation alongside France and Germany. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev declined to attend, as repeated declarations by Macron and actions by the French parliament demonstrated France’s incapacity to be an impartial arbiter. American diplomacy entered the scene in early 2023, initiating a meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in February. An intensive meeting in Washington in May marked a genuine breakthrough. Armenian-American interest groups continued to militate against peace through their strong influence in Congress. Over the summer, they reasserted this influence, obtaining the appointment of James O’Brien as Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.

An informal ban on high-level Azerbaijani visits to Washington was announced, but this was rescinded after President Aliyev cut off all U.S. official visits to Baku. In exchange, President Blinken allowed O’Brien to visit Baku in early December, and the informal American ban on Azerbaijani visits to Washington was rescissioned. O’Brien met with Aliyev in Baku on December 6, discussing their deep historical ties and the importance of the bilateral relationship. He expressed hope for hosting Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Washington for peace negotiations. In return, the principal Armenian interest group in Washington has begun a campaign against Bayramov’s visa to enter the U.S. Despite the positive progress, the U.S.’s contribution to peace in the South Caucasus remains to be seen, given the bilateral and regionally-focused forums available.

ArmeniaAzerbaijanAzerbaijani-Armenian NegotiationsRoadmap to Achieving Peace in Azerbaijani-Armenian Negotiations