YEREVAN(RFE/RL) — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has again lashed out at the U.S., Russian and French mediators trying to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying that they support Armenia.
In a weekend speech, Aliyev condemned the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for continuing to press for confidence-building measures that would minimize ceasefire violations in the conflict zone.
“I’m saying this so that the Azerbaijani people once again know that the conflict remains unresolved not only because of Armenia’s position. With their destructive activities, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group … are helping to freeze the conflict,” he said during celebrations of Nowruz, a public holiday in Azerbaijan marking the ancient Persian New Year.
“Instead of putting pressure on Armenia, they sponsor and defend the Armenians,” he charged, according to Minval.az. “Instead of resolving the conflict, they come up with weird proposals to bolster security along the Line of Contact [around Karabakh.]”
“On one hand, their heads of state have repeatedly said that the status quo is unacceptable and needs to be changed. On the other hand, the destructive work of the Minsk Group co-chairs serves to cement the status quo,” added Aliyev.
Aliyev was particularly furious with the co-chairs’ opposition to two pro-Azerbaijani draft resolutions on Karabakh that were debated by the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in January. The PACE voted down the more important of those resolutions that called for “the establishment of full sovereignty of Azerbaijan” over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled districts surrounding it.
The United States, Russia and France have advocated a different solution to the dispute for more than a decade. Their Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement envisage an internationally recognized referendum in which Karabakh’s population would apparently be able to reaffirm the territory’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan.
The mediating troika warned the PACE earlier in January that the proposed resolutions would undermine their long-running peace efforts. It also stressed that that the Minsk Group “remains the only accepted format for negotiations.”
Aliyev claimed on Saturday that this “pressure” exerted on the Strasbourg-based assembly “completely undermined” the Azerbaijani people’s faith in the Minsk Group co-chairs.
Aliyev and other Azerbaijani leaders have for years criticized the three mediating powers for not restoring Baku’s control over Karabakh. By contrast, Armenia has generally commended their efforts, saying that the conflict remains unresolved only because of Baku’s stance.
Not surprisingly, the Armenian government on Monday dismissed Aliyev’s latest statement as “ridiculous.” “Azerbaijan’s leadership is accusing everyone of sustaining the status quote just as it itself is doing everything … to sustain the status quo,” Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian said in written comments.
“The Azerbaijani leader’s strange and aggressive style is primarily addressed to his own people because it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to distract the domestic public and cling to his hereditary post by escalating tensions on the borders and exploiting external dangers,” Kocharian charged.