Author: Mariam Khakhutaishvili


After Azerbaijan regained control over the Karabakh region in the fall of 2023, peace talks have been underway between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In this process, Azerbaijan is attempting to legalize additional territories in the border zone. Armenia’s decision on April 19th to return four border villages it has controlled since the 1990s to Azerbaijan is an important step toward the final delimitation of the border between the two neighboring countries, but raises questions about stability in the region.

Why did Armenia decide to return the border villages to Azerbaijan in the context of reducing dependence on Russia and strengthening ties with the West? What effect does this move have on the prospect of reaching a peace agreement?


Are the demands from Azerbaijan a new hotbed of tension, or the prospect for a peace agreement?

Before the historic April 19 agreement, border delimitation talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan had been deadlocked for weeks, largely due to Azerbaijan’s insistence on obtaining control over eight border villages held by Armenia. Armenia eventually agreed to return four settlements to Azerbaijan, thereby raising the prospect of a peace agreement between the two conflicting states.

Armenia claiming control over the aforementioned villages during the First Karabakh War in the 1990s was no accident. Indeed, to date, they have served important strategic and economic functions for Armenia. For example, the village of Baghanus Ayrim, near the country’s border with Georgia, serves as a link between Tbilisi and Yerevan via the M16/H26 highway. Additionally, this road hosts the ‘North Caucasus-Transcaucasia’ main gas pipeline originating from Russia. However, there are alternative routes connecting Georgia and Armenia.

The Kark exclave connects Yerevan with southern Armenia via the M2/E117 highway, and functions as the primary trade route between Armenia and Iran. The residents of these border villages are protesting because the delimitation-demarcation of the border with Azerbaijan, following the Soviet-era configuration, deprives them of access to agricultural lands, and restricts direct communication with the rest of the country.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s decision to make concessions on this issue with Azerbaijan is legally grounded in the 1991 Almaty Declaration, which, among other agreements, played a crucial role in delineating the borders of the newly independent states following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The cartographic foundation of this process relies on the most recent topographical maps, with legal validity dating from the time of the Soviet Union.

In the near future, the issue of the “Zangezur Corridor” might well be raised, which would enable Baku to connect with its exclave, Nakhichevan, through the southern region of Armenia, Syunik. The proposal of a corridor passing through Armenian territory essentially implies a militarized zone, which Official Yerevan opposes and considers a violation of sovereignty.

There are several reasons for Armenia’s concession at this stage, namely:

  • Official Yerevan sees an opportunity to resolve the conflict and reach a peace agreement with Azerbaijan;
  • Nikol Pashinyan’s desire to avoid new tensions with Azerbaijan in the future, despite the potential for destabilization within the country;
  • Simultaneously, Armenia aims to decrease its dependence on Russia and foster relations with the West.

Armenia’s constitutional change: Pressure from Azerbaijan

Another important issue on Armenia’s political agenda is the amendment of its constitution. Prime Minister Pashinyan, taking into account the “new geopolitical circumstances,” supports the adoption of a completely new constitution, thereby suggesting the strengthening of Armenia’s position in the region. Although his initiative lacks details, it has already sparked debate in political circles. According to widespread speculation in Armenia, the proposed constitutional amendment, which involves removing the term “Artsakh” from the text, is the result of pressure from Azerbaijani authorities on Pashinyan’s government.

However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is also concerned about another document: Armenia’s Declaration of Independence, which was adopted before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, and which contains a reference to a resolution “on the unification of the Armenian SSR and Nagorno-Karabakh.” From Aliyev’s point of view, this entry in Armenia’s Declaration of Independence is unacceptable to Azerbaijan. Therefore, along with the amendment to the Constitution of Armenia, Aliyev’s demand about the country’s Declaration of Independence also pertains to the narrative related to the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan appears to be insisting that Armenia refrain from claiming the Karabakh region as a precondition for any future peace agreement. Reassessing the historical record and constitutional framework poses significant challenges for Armenia. Such changes, although aimed at progress and peace according to Pashinyan, also carry the risk of destabilization within the country.

Within the current political climate, protests are ongoing in Armenia. The “Tavush for the Homeland” movement, which began on May 9, is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan. The ongoing impact of these demonstrations on negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as on domestic stability, remains a focal point.


Change in Armenia’s foreign policy orientation

Against the backdrop of continuing geopolitical changes in the South Caucasus, the European Union and the United States once again expressed their support for Armenia’s recent policy of rapprochement with the West. Following talks between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Brussels on April 5, the latter pledged to provide financial assistance of 270 million euros to Armenia. The allocation of funds aims to aid Armenia in both the rehabilitation of Karabakh after the second war, and in reducing economic dependence on Russia. According to Armenia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ararat Mirzoyan, the country is considering an application to join the European Union, which can be interpreted as a shift in Armenia’s foreign policy direction.

After the loss of the Karabakh region, Armenia’s confidence in Russia as a guarantor of the country’s security was seriously shaken. Even back in 2018, following the “Velvet Revolution,” Armenia was seen making changes to its foreign policy. However, the defeat in the war with Azerbaijan marked a real turning point, triggering a revision of Armenia’s foreign policy and a redefinition of priorities. This shift can be interpreted as a change in Armenia’s strategic orientation towards the West, and an attempt to seek a partner in the European Union to counterbalance Azerbaijan’s military superiority. It is noteworthy that Armenia froze its participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The country no longer trusts Russia as an ally due to repeated disappointments. Yerevan currently views the West as an alternative, and recognizes that dependence on Moscow has negatively impacted its security. Therefore, Armenia sees the need to alter its foreign policy and security strategy.

The change in Armenia’s foreign policy orientation is accompanied by certain risks. The Kremlin views Armenia’s rapprochement with the European Union as a challenge that could diminish its sphere of influence in the region. However, despite tensions between Yerevan and Moscow, Russia remains the leader in Armenia’s foreign trade turnover, which exceeded 7.3 billion USD in 2023 and increased by 93% in January 2024, compared to the same period the previous year.

Although one resolution adopted by the European Parliament condemns Azerbaijan’s aggression towards Karabakh and calls for sanctions against Baku, the establishment of closer relations between the European Union and Armenia does not guarantee that Brussels is prepared to provide security guarantees to Armenia in the event of a new conflict with Azerbaijan.


With the agreement of April 19, Armenia and Azerbaijan took an important step forward towards the delimitation and demarcation of their state borders. This agreement holds historical significance, as it aims to restore the borders that existed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, thereby providing a legal basis for doing so, as outlined in the Almaty Declaration.

The April 19 agreement sets the stage for potential peace between the two countries. Armenia’s return of four border villages to Azerbaijan marks a crucial stage in the normalization of relations and peace negotiations between Yerevan and Baku. The next phase is likely to involve discussions regarding the return to Armenia of the village of Artsvasheni, an enclave village that has been under Azerbaijani control since the 1990s.

Armenia’s willingness to ease long-standing tensions with Azerbaijan, despite internal opposition, can be viewed as a pragmatic approach primarily driven by the desire to avert a new conflict. In order to reach an agreement, it was necessary for both sides to agree to the return of villages within the framework of mutual recognition of sovereignty. Yerevan’s decision to hand over villages to Azerbaijan is influenced by a combination of internal and external factors. This includes Armenia’s aspiration to lessen its dependence on Russia, and to bolster its economic stability and security by enhancing relations with the West, particularly with the European Union.

As such, changes in Armenia’s foreign policy and constitution can be regarded as steps towards fostering dialogue and compromise with Azerbaijan, laying the groundwork for a potential peace between the two countries. However, the deepening of relations with the European Union will face obstacles from Russia, highlighting the difficult geopolitical reality confronting Armenia. Severing Armenia’s longstanding ties with Russia, particularly in the areas of security, energy, and economics, presents a significant challenge. Thus, Armenia altering its foreign policy trajectory will not be a straightforward task.

Despite the significant agreement reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the border, the issue of regional communications remains unresolved. It is probable that Azerbaijan will continue to insist on connecting its western regions with the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan through a corridor with a special status, while Armenia will endeavor to maintain sovereignty over this route. This disagreement poses a significant obstacle to the ultimate normalization of relations between the two countries.