Azerbaijan Must be Ready to Negotiate, says Nalbandian

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–It is not enough for Armenia to constantly expresses its readiness to engage in peace negotiations, Azerbaijan must also be willingto negotiate for a settlement, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said Wednesday at a National Assembly-Government Question and Answer session.
According to Nalbandian, Armenia finds it imperative that negotiations continue within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. The negotiations, he explained, must be conducted according to the basic principles of peace currently on the negotiation table.
The peace talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been conducted by the American, French and Russian co-chairmen of the Minsk Group Since 1997. At the end of last year, the co-chairs tried to persuade the two sides to accept a statement of basic principles, as a first step towards breaking the deadlock over Nagorno Karabakh’s future–but no agreement was reached.
Nalbandian’s statemen’s come a week before he is scheduled to meet for the first time with his Azeri counterpart. The two countries’ foreign representatives are set to meet in Strasbourg on May 6.
Nalbandian expressed hope that the meeting would be productive, adding that it will only be possible to announce whether negotiations will continue after the meeting.
"The core of negotiations is the status Nagorno-Karabakh," he said, adding "the document on the basic principles of negotiations currently on the table requires that Karabakh’s status be determined through a referendum."
This referendum will give the people of Karabakh the opportunity to freely express their will regarding the status of Karabakh, the minister stressed.
But Azerbaijan is working diplomatically to prevent any such a referendum. On March 14, Azerbaijan pushed through a resolution in the UN General Assembly reaffirming the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and calling for withdrawal of Armenian forces from "occupied territories." According to former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, the resolution, which was adopted with 39 votes, was part of a concerted campaign to discredit and weaken the Minsk Group process. Two days earlier, official Baku had sent a letter to the OSCE’ secretariat for information on replacing or dissolving the Minsk Group co-chairmanship.
Nalbandian reminded the National Assembly deputies that the Azeri drafted UN resolution was not supported by the Russian, US, and French Minsk Group co-chairs.
The militant rhetoric coming out of Azerbaijani is also intensifying, Nalbandian told the deputies. They have increased their military budget to $2 billion dollars and are daily threatening a renewed war to "liberate" Karabakh.
"When I spoke of the worlds indifference to the increase of their military budget, Azerbaijan lashed, telling us not to interfere with its internal affairs," he said. "But preparations for war are not an internal affair."

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