Armenian and Azerbaijani Leaders Spar in Front of Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2023. (Sputnik/Pool via Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2023. (Sputnik/Pool via Reuters)
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Armenian and Azerbaijani Leaders Spar in Front of Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2023. (Sputnik/Pool via Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2023. (Sputnik/Pool via Reuters)

The leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia argued openly in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in exchanges that underlined the extent of their differences over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

At a meeting in Moscow, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan raised the issue of the Lachin corridor, the road which links Armenia to the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh inside Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani activists in mid-December began obstructing the road, which Pashinyan noted should be under the control of Russian peacekeepers, and Baku subsequently erected a checkpoint along it.

"Azerbaijan, unfortunately, has blocked this corridor," Pashinyan said at a roundtable meeting of the Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow.

Azberbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev responded: "Azerbaijan did not block any corridor... There is no need to use this platform for unfounded accusations."

The two leaders continued arguing for several minutes before Putin closed off the conversation, noting that the topic was sensitive. He was due to host three-way talks with Aliyev and Pashinyan later.

"We will now have the opportunity, as we agreed, to talk about everything calmly in a businesslike manner in a trilateral format, and I hope to reach some agreements that will put the situation not only between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also in the region, on the path of constructive development," Putin said. "I can assure you that everyone here has an interest in this, absolutely everyone."

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at loggerheads for three decades, fighting two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh. In recent months, both sides have expressed increasing willingness to sign a permanent peace agreement, even as regular skirmishes have continued.

Minutes before the testy exchanges with Pashinyan, Aliyev had said there were "serious grounds for the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia on the basis of mutual recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty".



Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Türkiye. Relations with Türkiye are often tense, and the two countries' coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece's coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country's reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.