Azeri FM Slams ‘Pro Armenian’ Mediators Says Peace Process Deadlocked

BAKU (RFE/RL)–Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said on Monday the existing international proposals to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favor the Armenian side and are therefore unacceptable to Baku. He said last week’s visit to the region by the French–Russian and US co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group did not result in further progress in the peace process because of Armenia’s "unconstructive" stance and the mediators’ unwillingness to seek Karabakh’s return under direct Azeri rule.

"Today the OSCE seems to agree with the raving deman’s of Karabakh separatist leader Arkady Ghukasian on necessity to take into account ‘existing realities’," Guliev told the Turan news agency in an interview. "It seems that the separatists could create an illegitimate state entity–and the organization which is supposed to ensure peace in Europe accepts that. That is unacceptable for Azerbaijan."

Accusing Armenia of "inability to make important compromises," Guliev denied Yerevan’s assertion that the parties had agreed on the main "principles" of a peace settlement during talks in Paris last March and the Florida island of Key West the next month.

Armenian and Karabakh officials have implicitly accused Aliev of backtracking on the Paris and Key West agreemen’s–which they believe laid the groundwork for a comprehensive peace accord on ending the 13-year bitter dispute. They claim that Baku’s subsequent unexpected deman’s for more concessions were instrumental in the postponement of what could have possibly become a decisive round of peace talks in Geneva last month.

But according to Guliev–the so-called Paris principles is "yet another Armenian myth created with the aim of avoiding responsibility for the breakdown of talks."

"Paris principles do not exist. We can talk about particular principles only if they are agreed with both sides and form the basis of a document. However–during the meeting of [Presidents] Aliev and Kocharian in Paris with participation of French president Jacques Chirac–there was just an exchange of opinions. No agreemen’s were reached there," the Azeri minister said.

However–the mediators and Western diplomats familiar with the peace process insist that the two presidents did reach important agreemen’s in Paris and Key West–the reason why they raised hopes for a quick solution to the conflict. Citing Minsk Group negotiators–"The Washington Post" reported on Sunday that Aliev and Kocharian "agreed to about 80 percent of an armistice" including the key issue of Karabakh’s future status. The paper said that the parties have yet to sort out several contentious issues.

The mediators said during their latest tour of the conflict zone that they are only considering "refining" those agreemen’s and will not seek to change their essence. Officials in Yerevan say they largely meet the three key Armenian deman’s: Karabakh’s non-subordination to Baku–an overland link with Armenia and international security guarantees.

Guliev reiterated Azerbaijani threats to take back Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani lands by force if the peace talks fail. The war rhetoric–brushed aside by the Armenia’s–drew criticism from the American–French and Russian mediators last week.

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