Putin defends Armenia-Azerbaijan ceasefire amid heavy criticism

Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the deal - ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
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President Vladimir Putin has defended a Russian-brokered ceasefire in the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying that it would be “suicidal” for Yerevan to back out despite heavy criticisms of the truce.

There have been protests in Armenia and calls for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to resign over the week-old agreement, which allowed Azerbaijan to consolidate major territorial gains after several weeks of bitter fighting.

Asked about the potential of a new government reneging on the deal, Mr Putin reportedly told Russian state television on Tuesday, “That would be a huge mistake.”

France has also criticised the ceasefire agreement for containing "ambiguities" and has questioned the role of Turkey in enforcing it, concerns also echoed by the US State Department.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament in Paris the issues would be discussed at a meeting in Moscow of the so-called Minsk Group - a decades-old talking shop seeking a solution to the conflict, co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States.

But Mr Putin defended the deal, saying: "The fact that hostilities have stopped and there is an agreement to unblock transport, restore economic ties, it's extremely important."

He said the deal laid the basis for "long-term normalisation" for the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region but admitted it had not solved the "problem" of its final status.

“What happens next should be decided in the future, or by future leaders, future participants in this process.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians that broke away from Baku's control in a war as the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s.

Under the ceasefire, Russia is sending about 2,000 peacekeeping troops on a five-year mandate to keep the peace.

Putin said Turkey, which supports Baku, will be associated with the peace-keeping process through a joint control centre with Russia that will use drones, but that Turkish troops will not enter Nagorno-Karabakh.