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Sunday May 19, 2024

Foes Azerbaijan and Armenia agree ‘historic’ return of villages

Azerbaijan has been demanding the villages’ return as a precondition for a peace deal after more than three decades of conflict

By Reuters
April 20, 2024
Flags of Azerbaijan (L) and Armenia can be seen. — AFP/File
Flags of Azerbaijan (L) and Armenia can be seen. — AFP/File

BAKU: Armenia has agreed to return several villages to Azerbaijan in what both sides said on Friday was an important milestone as they edge towards a peace deal after fighting two wars since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aykhan Hajizada posted on X that Armenia would return four villages near the countries’ shared border that had been “under occupation” since the early 1990s, and called it a “long-awaited historic event”.

In Armenia, the state news agency quoted the prime minister’s office as saying: “In this process, the Republic of Armenia receives a reduction in risks associated with border delimitation and security.”

It said the handover in practice involved only “two and a half villages” because Azerbaijan already partly controlled the settlements involved, but added that the demarcation of the border was a “significant event”.

The settlements are deserted but are strategically important as they are close to Armenia’s main highway north towards the border with Georgia, through which much of its trade is done, and to the pipeline through which it receives gas from Russia.

The agreement was reached at a meeting on the two countries’ border, chaired by their deputy prime ministers.

Azerbaijan has been demanding the villages’ return as a precondition for a peace deal after more than three decades of conflict, mostly centred on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.