Aliyev Oskanian Exchange Jabs on Karabagh

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–In a speech to a conference on European integration held in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava late last week–Azeri president Ilham Aliyev spoke extensively about the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–and announced that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored. "The Armenian party tries to justify its aggression and occupation–and speaks about the right to self-determination," Aliyev charged–saying that Armenia’s have already gained independence–and have a country and state. He called for a demilitarization of the region–comparing the presence of foreign military troops in Armenia–and none in Azerbaijan. "When there is no foreign military presence in the region–all conflicts will be regulated."

Representing Armenia at the conference–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–in an interview to RFE/RL–said it is absurd to draw such parallels. "It is obvious that the presence of Armenian population in Karabagh is much older than the Azerbaijani Republic–and drawing parallels between the presence of Armenia’s in other countries is ridiculous," Oskanian said–pointing to Aliyev’s statement as strengthening the Armenian position. "The people of Mountainous Karabagh indeed have the right to self-determination because this self-determination is different than others. This is the case when the people want to gain independence on the territory which has no legal or historical connection to Azerbaijan."

Oskanian dismissed links between Aliyev’s call for the demilitarization of Caucasus and the conflict in Mountainous Karabagh–adding that there is–in fact–a Russian military presence at the Gabala radar station–a more strategic positioning than the physical presence of Russian forces in Armenia or Georgia. "Aliyev said this just to please some circles," stated Oskanian.

Also attending the Bratislavia conference was Oskanian’s Azeri counterpart Vilayat Guliyev–who alleged he challenged Oskanian to substantiate Armenian claims that Kocharian and Aliyev’s late father and predecessor Heydar had agreed on a framework peace deal during talks in Paris and on the Florida island of Key West three years ago. "I reminded him of his statement and told him to show me the papers," Guliyev said–according to the ATV report monitored by the BBC. "He said that he will send them by fax on his return to Yerevan."

"I asked whether the papers had been signed. He said he did not have signed papers. I said–if there are no signed papers–then what kind of agreement could we talk about?"

Reacting to the remarks on Monday–the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said they only prove the existence of the Key West agreemen’s. "We are glad that Mr. Guliyev has at last admitted that there is a written document certifying agreemen’s reached in Paris and Key West even though it has not been signed yet," ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian said. "Had it been signed–the Karabagh conflict would have already been resolved."

Armenia maintains that Aliyev senior scrapped the agreemen’s shortly after returning home from Key West. Baku denies this–saying that no specific deals were cut. But according to the chief US negotiator on Karabagh–Rudolf Perina–the parties were "incredibly close" to a peaceful settlement at the time.

Guliyev and Oskanian are scheduled to hold another meeting in Prague next week. The talks will be mediated by Perina and the French and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Oskanian has said he hopes they will finally clarify whether or not Baku will ever revive the Key West deal.

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