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Russia Blames Ally Armenia for Breakdown in Talks With Azerbaijan

TBILISI (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday blamed Armenia for a breakdown in peace talks with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, in the latest sign of friction between allies Moscow and Yerevan over the conflict.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have for months been in talks to broker a peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh – a breakaway enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but home to a mainly Armenian population.

For the past month, Azeris claiming to be environmental activists have blocked transport along the only road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia in what Yerevan has called a government-endorsed blockade. Baku says the protesters have legitimate concerns over illegal Armenian mining, and have denied that the region is under blockade.

In a statement on Thursday, Russia blamed Armenia for cancelling peace talks between the two sides and called on Yerevan to come back to the negotiating table.

“It is difficult to assess Yerevan’s position when their official statements differ so significantly,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

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She said Yerevan’s decision to pull out of peace talks scheduled last December in Moscow “prevented us from discussing the peace treaty”, adding: “If our Armenian partners are really interested in solving these problems … then instead of engaging in scholasticism, it is necessary to continue working together.”

Officials in Yerevan have grown increasingly angry at Russia – formally an ally through a mutual self defence treaty – for not doing more to end the blockade.

Under a peace deal signed in 2020, Russia deployed a peacekeeping contingent to the region and Azerbaijan agreed to ensure free movement along the Lachin Corridor that links Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia says Azerbaijan is not abiding by that agreement and wants Russian peacekeepers to do more to dislodge the protesters. Moscow has said it is doing everything it can to help.

(Reporting by Jake Cordell; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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