President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Munich, 2020

President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Munich, 2020

In a diplomatic maneuver that could reshape the trajectory of regional relations, Azerbaijan has extended an invitation to Armenia for direct, bilateral peace talks to expedite the conclusion of a peace treaty. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs made this announcement, emphasizing the belief that both nations should jointly decide on the future of their relations, excluding any external mediators from the negotiation process.

Official Baku's reluctance to engage in discussions mediated by the European Union and its refusal to participate in foreign minister-level talks in Washington underscored their insistence on a direct, face-to-face dialogue with Armenia. This shift in approach was attributed to Azerbaijan's dissatisfaction with the exclusion of Turkey from the mediation discussions and the perceived inadequacy of the position taken by the United States.

While the U.S. State Department expressed an ongoing commitment to work with both parties towards a lasting peace, the Azerbaijani government's preference for direct negotiations remains resolute. Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, stated, "We see that other countries are proposing to facilitate these negotiations. We think it's important for the two countries to talk face to face so that they can reach a lasting agreement."

Armenia, while confirming its readiness to resume negotiations with Baku, has not provided explicit consent to the proposal for direct, high-level talks. Yerevan has acknowledged its willingness to engage in discussions with Azerbaijan but has refrained from addressing the issue of direct negotiations at the highest level. In a recent development, the Armenian Foreign Ministry announced a meeting of the Delimitation Commission on the border with Azerbaijan, indicating a step toward diplomatic engagement.

The prospect of successful bilateral negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia remains uncertain, with opinions on the matter diverging. Hikmet Babaoglu, Deputy Chairman of the Milli Majlis Committee on defense, security, and combating corruption, in an interview with Turan, praised Azerbaijan's proposal, asserting that peace achieved through direct meetings between the two nations would be the most reliable. Babaoglu argued that external mediators could compromise the voluntary nature of the peace, making it less sustainable in the long term.

Political expert Azer Gasimli supported this opinion in an interview with Radio Azadlig, stating that direct negotiations would be expedient and positive for fostering communication and sincerity between the leadership of both countries. However, he expressed skepticism about the Azerbaijani government's willingness to engage in such talks, citing geopolitical considerations and the influence of Russia in the region as potential impediments.

As the dynamics of this diplomatic overture unfold, the possibility of direct negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia raises crucial questions about the region's path to peace and the role of external actors in shaping the outcomes of these talks.

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