Monday, April 15, 2024

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The European Union, Russia, and the United States engaged in confidential discussions prior to the sudden attack on Nagorno-Karabakh.


High-ranking representatives from the US and EU convened with Russian leaders in Turkey for undisclosed urgent discussions in an effort to find a solution to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. This meeting took place shortly before Azerbaijan initiated a military attack to capture the disputed region from Armenian rule.

The meeting outside of official communication is a notable, yet unproductive, interaction between Moscow and Western countries regarding a significant security issue. This meeting comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 disrupted typical diplomatic relations.

A high-ranking representative with understanding of the talks informed POLITICO that the gathering occurred on September 17 in Istanbul as a means of exerting pressure on Azerbaijan to lift its nine-month blockade of the region and permit humanitarian aid convoys from Armenia. The diplomat stated that the conversation revolved around finding ways to mobilize the trucks and guarantee the delivery of essential resources such as food and fuel to approximately 100,000 people living there.

Louis Bono, Washington’s top advisor for Caucasus talks, represented the U.S., while the EU’s representative for the region, Toivo Klaar, was sent by the EU. Russia’s delegate, Igor Khovaev, who is Putin’s special envoy for relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, was also present.

It is not often that high-level diplomatic communication occurs. In March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met at the G20 meeting in India, but Moscow stated that the interaction was brief and no formal negotiations took place.

An EU representative told POLITICO that it is crucial to keep communication channels open with relevant parties to prevent any misunderstandings. The representative also noted that Klaar has made efforts to maintain open lines of communication in various areas over the past years, including discussions with Khovaev and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin.

The U.S. State Department representative refused to discuss the meeting, stating that “we do not publicly comment on private diplomatic talks.”

A confidential U.S. government source, who was authorized to discuss delicate diplomatic issues, revealed that the talks stemmed from the recognition that the Kremlin maintains significant power in the area. “It is crucial for us to cooperate with the Russians on this matter, as they have significant influence over the involved parties, particularly during this precarious time,” stated the American representative.

On September 19, Azerbaijan began a sudden and aggressive attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, deploying tanks and soldiers while using intense artillery fire for cover. As a result of the intense 24-hour battle that claimed hundreds of lives on both sides, leaders of Karabakh’s Armenian population were compelled to surrender. The Armenian government reports that over 100,000 individuals have since fled their homes and crossed the border in fear for their safety.

Azerbaijan asserts its right to address “unlawful armed groups” within its officially recognized borders and vows to incorporate those who have remained into society. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, labeled the military action as “destructive,” and Blinken has joined in urging Azerbaijan to abstain from additional acts of aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh and allow unimpeded humanitarian aid.