Sophie Wilmès: bilateral meetings with the Armenian and the Azeri Ministers of Foreign Affairs

On Thursday December 17 and Friday December 18, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès held successive bilateral meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, H.E. Ara Aivazian, and her counterpart of Azerbaijan, H.E. Jeyhun Bayramov, on the occasion of their visit to Brussels and in the margins of the partnership dialogue with the European Union. In view of recent events, discussions focused on the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. These exchanges were substantial and open, allowing a series of important issues to be discussed frankly, including the sanitary situation and the role of the Minsk Group.

Minister Wilmès noted that the ceasefire that began on November 10 was generally respected - with the exception of certain unacceptable acts. She therefore drew Ministers' attention to the importance of maintaining the ceasefire and its effective implementation. The return of refugees and displaced persons who fled the violence, as well as the exchange of prisoners and the remains of the deceased, were also discussed.

The Minister expressed her deep concern about the violations of international humanitarian law, the responsibility in this matter and the use of mercenaries in the conflict, which Belgium strongly condemns. Minister Wilmès is also very concerned about the humanitarian needs of the population.

"After six weeks of fighting and destruction, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh is particularly vulnerable as winter is approaching. Belgium, as well as the EU and other Member States, are ready to provide humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicine. In addition, our country will contribute to the reconstruction of the region based on an assessment of the concrete humanitarian, medical and technical needs identified by UN agencies. In this respect, Europe's role is also crucial. Our country also advocates the full and unconditional return of displaced persons and the protection of cultural and religious heritage ," explains Sophie Wilmès.

The Minister also stressed the importance of a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. She reminded her counterparts that the major issues underlying this solution, such as the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, should be discussed within the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This group is chaired by France, Russia and the United States and has been interceding between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 1990s.

Sophie Wilmès: "The Minsk Group is the only international body authorized to facilitate negotiations for a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. I therefore welcome the initiative of the Group's co-chairs and the recent exploratory missions to relaunch the peace process. On behalf of Belgium, I am following this issue with great interest. Also and above all because I am convinced that a lasting solution is possible and that it can lead to peace and stability in the South Caucasus and, by extension, on the European continent".