The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan said before the start of their talks in Moscow on Thursday that progress was being made in the process of normalizing their relations, after mutual recognition of their territorial integrity.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev spoke before their talks began under the auspices of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

They met separately with the Russian head of state before the start of the trilogue last night. There was tension, with the two leaders exchanging accusations about the situation in front of the Russian president.

Baku and Yerevan have been embroiled in a decades-long conflict over control of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, a predominantly Armenian enclave.

“It is possible to reach a peace agreement, since Armenia has officially recognized it [Ναγκόρνο] Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan,” Mr. Aliyev stressed at the Eurasian Economic Union, an organization led by Russia.

“Azerbaijan does not make any territorial claims against Armenia,” he added.

Mr. Pashinyan confirmed that the two countries “are moving towards the normalization of their relations, on the basis of mutual recognition of their territorial integrity.”

He assured that Armenia is ready to “lift the blockade of all transportation connections in the region that pass through Armenian territory.”

Mr Putin said the trio would discuss “very important and delicate issues” such as “lifting the blockade of transport routes”.

“In my opinion, despite the difficulties and problems that persist, and there are quite a few, overall the situation is moving toward resolution,” added the Russian president. He clarified that the vice-presidents of the governments will meet in a week in Moscow in order to “resolve the outstanding issues” for the opening of transport connections between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Among the outstanding issues is the status and rights of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The two countries sought to negotiate a peace agreement with the help of the European Union and the US. On May 14, during a meeting organized in Brussels by European Council President Charles Michel, they agreed to proceed with mutual recognition of their territorial integrity.

The West’s diplomatic involvement in the Caucasus is causing intense discomfort in Russia, a traditional power in the region. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said earlier yesterday that the West was trying to get involved in the conflict and discredit his country’s peacekeeping policy.

The two former Soviet republics of the Caucasus were involved in two wars, in the 1990s and 2020, over control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

After a six-week war in autumn 2020, in which Azerbaijan recaptured territory controlled by Armenia for decades, Baku and Yerevan signed an agreement brokered by Moscow. Since then, Russian troops have guaranteed peacekeeping in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Armenia has complained for months that the mission is ineffective.