Azeri Official Chides Armenia’s Leadership

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BAKU (APA)—Azerbaijan’s chief presidential foreign policy adviser claimed that Armenia’s current leadership “often changes its position” and is “not yet daring to take serious steps” in the peace talks. He also said the mediating powers have stepped up their pressure on the Armenian side due to a number of factors, notably the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide Novruz Mammadov, in an extensive interview with the APA news agency claimed that Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian “has no concrete logical position on the solution to the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict and relations with the neighbor country.”

Mammadov accused the Armenian president of changing his mind.

“How can it be that the Turkish president visited Armenia, but he [Sarskian] says that he will not visit Turkey. It’s like a game,” added Mammadov.

In discussing the Karabakh conflict, Mammadov said the basic principles of resolving the conflict favored by international mediators preclude international recognition of Karabakh’s independence.

“As is pointed out in the ‘Madrid principles’ and as the president of Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated in his speeches, the conflict can be resolved only within the framework of the country’s territorial integrity,” Mammadov said. He said future agreements on Karabakh’s status envisioned by the proposed settlement would amount to clarifying the extent of the Karabakh’s autonomy within Azerbaijan.

The claims sharply contrast with Armenian officials’ interpretation of the basic principles which the U.S., French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group formally proposed in Madrid in November 2007. According to them, Karabakh’s population would be able to vote for independence, reunification with Armenia or return under Azerbaijani in a future referendum to be held years after the liberation of the Armenian-occupied territories around Karabakh.

The mediators themselves have refused to elaborate on the proposed vote in their public pronouncements, saying that its practical modalities have yet to be agreed upon. In a July 10 joint statement, the U.S., Russian and French presidents said only that Karabakh’s status will be determined “through a legally binding expression of will.”

The mediators are expected to present the conflicting parties with what they call an “updated version” of the Madrid principles soon. Whether or not they plan to make significant changes in the document, first discussed by Aliyev and Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharian, remains to be seen.

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