24 Jan 2023 07:48 am

The EU states want to send a mission to the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan. EU chief foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell spoke of a “new phase in EU engagement in the South Caucasus”. This step is also intended to reduce Russia’s influence in the region.

The EU foreign ministers have agreed on a new mission in Armenia, as was announced on Monday. The purpose of the mission is to contribute to stability on the border with Azerbaijan and to create conditions for a “normalization” of the two countries. The mission called EUMA (European Union Mission in Armenia) is scheduled to start at the end of February. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said:

“The establishment of an EU mission in Armenia heralds a new phase in EU engagement in the South Caucasus.”

The deployment, which takes place “at the request of Armenia,” is initially planned for two years, as the council announced. The move builds on previous EU activities in the region, most notably the EUMCAP (EU Monitoring Capacity in Armenia) project, under which Brussels sent around 40 civilian observers on a two-month trial following the deadly border conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The mission was based on an understanding between Armenia and Azerbaijan and conducted 176 patrols at the borders between the two countries over the two months. After the end of the test phase, Yerevan had campaigned for a permanent EU mission. Since the observers are only on Armenian territory, no approval from Azerbaijan is required. The EU intends to expand its influence in the South Caucasus and push Russia out of the region. According to information from those around him, Borrell does not expect the mission to further intensify tensions between the EU and Russia.

Armenia, a former Soviet republic, is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) along with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Earlier this month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Yerevan remains a “close ally” of Russia.

Armenia refuses to hold CSTO exercises in the country - Pashinyan explains why

Tensions flared up again on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in September last year. After clashes that killed dozens of soldiers from both sides, the two countries accused each other of inciting violence. At the time, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked the CSTO for military support, but the CSTO refused to send troops and insisted on a diplomatic solution to the situation.

The two states have historically been at odds over numerous issues, with the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh – de jure part of Azerbaijan but inhabited by ethnic Armenians – being the main point of contention. In 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in a 44-day war over the territory that ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the ceding of some areas previously controlled by Armenian troops to Baku. The agreement also provided for the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces to the area.

More on the subject – Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Azerbaijan announces record military budget for 2023

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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