Working Group meeting on January 30, 2021. Official photo

On instructions from Vladimir Putin, Russia’s deputy prime minister Alexei Overchuk hosted his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Mher Grigoryan and Shahin Mustafayev to discuss the reopening of transportation links between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The working group agreed to organize further expert-level meetings next week.

The talks are primarily focused on the reopening of the Russian-secured ground communications between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan via Meghri in the Republic of Armenia, which was agreed as part of the November 10, 2020 cease-fire terms.

The meeting was originally announced for the middle of the week, but it appeared to have been postponed. In the meantime, on January 28 Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev agreed to release five Armenians of more than a hundred military servicemen and civilian hostages he is believed to hold, most of them detained since after the cease-fire.

In exchange, Armenian officials transferred an Azerbaijan citizen who fled to Armenia in March 2020, apparently to escape criminal prosecution in Azerbaijan, and has since been held on charges of illegal border crossing.

Also on January 30, a joint Russian-Turkish monitoring center, staffed with some 60 military personnel from each country, opened near Giyameddenli in Agdam district, just east of the Russian peacekeeping operational area in Karabakh. The center is supposed to monitor the cease-fire and formalizes Turkish military presence in Azerbaijan.