Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia working group meets

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MOSCOW, JAN 31: The trilateral working group of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on Nagorno-Karabakh held its first meeting in Moscow on Saturday.

The meeting was co-chaired by deputy prime ministers of the three countries, according to a statement by the Russian government.

“The parties agreed to establish the expert subgroups related to railway, automobile and intermodal transport; transportation, including security, border, sanitary, veterinary, phytosanitary, and other types of control,” the statement noted.

The expert groups will be established by Feb. 2 and they will hold their first meetings by Feb. 5.

The trilateral working group was scheduled to convene its next meeting in Moscow, with the date to be set by the co-chairs in due course.

What happened in Karabakh?

Relations between the former Soviet republics had been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as an Azerbaijani territory, and seven adjacent regions.

When new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces and even violated humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the six-week-long conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages, while at least 2,802 of its soldiers were martyred. There are differing claims about the number of casualties on the Armenian side, which, sources and officials say, could be up to 5,000.

The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020 to end the fighting and work towards a comprehensive resolution.

A joint Turkish-Russian center became operational on Saturday to monitor the truce. 60 Russian and 60 Turkish troops are on duty.

On Jan. 11, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.

The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have withdrawn in line with the agreement.

Violations, however, have been reported in the past few weeks, with some Armenian soldiers said to have been hiding in the mountainous enclave.