June 18, 2024

European Council President Charles Michel says dialogue and diplomacy needed to resolve crisis.

The European Union has invited the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to resume peace talks following Azerbaijan’s lightning military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh last month, which triggered the flight of tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians.

In a meeting of European leaders in the Spanish city of Granada on Thursday, European Council President Charles Michel said he invited Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to meet in Brussels this month.

“We believe in diplomacy. We believe in political dialogue,” Michel told reporters at the summit of the European Political Community, a forum including more than 40 countries.

Aliyev declined to attend the summit in Granada, where European leaders had hoped that Armenia and Azerbaijan could work to resolve tensions and reach an agreement over Nagorno-Karabakh.

At the summit, leaders also pledged support for Armenia as it grapples with the fallout of the Azerbaijani military operation last month to seize control of the enclave, mainly populated by ethnic Armenians.

Many EU leaders have condemned the Azerbaijani operation and some governments have called for the bloc to consider tough measures against Baku, which has insisted it took legitimate action to regain control of a part of its sovereign territory.

Tens of thousands of ethnic Armenian residents have fled Nagorno-Karabakh to neighbouring Armenia since Armenian separatists were forced into a ceasefire on September 20 after a 24-hour military operation by the much larger Azerbaijani military.

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday accusing Baku of “ethnic cleansing”.

Many European leaders have expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared their “unwavering support” for Armenia’s territorial integrity on Thursday after meeting with Pashinyan.

However, there does not appear to be consensus among European leaders over potential sanctions for Azerbaijan, an important source of oil and natural gas for the EU and an ally of the United States. France’s Macron said that while Azerbaijan seemed to have “a problem with international law”, steps such as sanctions would not be productive.

Leaders at the summit agreed to step up aid to Armenia, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying that the EU will provide $5.53m in emergency aid on top of a similar amount previously announced.

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