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Saturday June 15, 2024

Armenia returns four border villages to Azerbaijan

By AFP
May 25, 2024
This photograph taken from the Armenian side of the border near the town of Kornidzor, on September 23, 2023, shows an Azerbaijan flag on the Azerbaijan side of the border near the Lachin corridor. — AFP
This photograph taken from the Armenian side of the border near the town of Kornidzor, on September 23, 2023, shows an Azerbaijan flag on the Azerbaijan side of the border near the Lachin corridor. — AFP

YEREVAN: Armenia has returned to Azerbaijan four border villages it seized decades ago, the countries confirmed on Friday -- a key step towards normalising ties between the historic rivals.

The move, which has sparked protracted protests in Armenia, represents an important move towards reaching a comprehensive peace agreement after years of fruitless talks mediated by Russia and Western countries.

The Caucasus countries, both former Soviet republics, fought two wars in the 1990s and in 2020 for control of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan recaptured it last year in a lightning offensive, ending three decades of Armenian separatist rule over the enclave and prompting more than 100,000 locals to flee into Armenia.

Yerevan´s disastrous defeat provoked a rift with historic ally Russia, which Armenia accuses of failing to defend it in the face of Azerbaijani threats, despite a security treaty obligations.

After months of diplomatic tensions, Moscow announced on Friday it had recalled its ambassador “for consultations.”

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not provide a reason for the recall, which is typically seen in diplomatic circles as an extreme step in the face of worsening ties.

Armenia´s security service confirmed on Friday that its border guards had taken up new positions in the east of the country, reflecting a recently brokered border demarcation deal that cedes the villages to Azerbaijani control.