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Baerbock heads to Armenia, Azerbaijan to discuss peace

Baerbock's visit to Armenia comes a day after she spoke at a conference on EU expansion

Baerbock's visit to Armenia comes a day after she spoke at a conference on EU expansion

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels to the southern Caucasus on Friday.

She will start her trip in Armenia, with a scheduled meeting with Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

She is expected to discuss the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, which was ruled by ethnic Armenian forces until Azerbaijan took control of it in a lightning offensive in September.

The trip comes a day after Baerbock spoke at a conference on EU expansion in Berlin in which she urged Ukraine to become a member of the 27-country alliance. She also discussed the southern Caucasus, saying that the EU must not allow Russia to "isolate" Georgia from the bloc.

What did Baerbock say about the trip?

Ahead of the trip to Armenia on Friday, Baerbock said Germany and the EU wanted to work alongside countries in the southern Caucasus to "build a region that overcomes the shadows of the past" and looks towards a better future for the region's population.

The minister stressed that it was important that countries "take the path of mutual trust" in the name of peace.

She said the conflict had inflicted deep wounds on both sides which "can heal in the long term."

Baerbock said the EU was ready to make the region concrete offers on the path to peace, including a submarine communications cable through the Black Sea that would help "bring Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to each other and closer to us."

Half of the cost of construction of €45 million ($48 million) would be funded by the EU Global Gateway initiative, which aims to expand the bloc's global influence through infrastructure investment.

According to the German Foreign Ministry, Baerbock plans to visit a reception center for refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia.

Talks are also planned with members of the civilian EU Mission in Armenia (EUMA), which aims to monitor the security situation along the Armenian side of the border.

On Saturday, she will meet with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Baku.

What is the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh?

The Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh region broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s. Its independence was not recognized by any country, including Armenia.

After a war in 2020, a Russian-brokered cease-fire saw Azerbaijan retake areas surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that had been held by ethnic Armenian forces.

In September of this year, Azerbaijan retook Nagorno-Karabakh, and the vast majority of the territory's residents fled to Armenia. Yerevan has accused Baku of "ethnic cleansing," while Azerbaijan argues that ethnic Armenians left voluntarily.

sdi/sms (dpa, AFP)