Azerbaijan Criticizes US Role in Karabakh Peace Talks

BAKU (Combined Sources)–Baku is publicly questioning the neutrality of U.S. mediators engaged in negotiations to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Ali Hasanov, a top political advisor to President Ilham Aliyev, said Wednesday that the government is not happy with U.S. efforts to broker a peace agreement ending the long-standing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Hasanov also praised Ankara for linking the implementation of the Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements with a Karabakh settlement. “The position of Turkey, which is a strategic ally of Azerbaijan, fully satisfies Baku,” he said.

“We are not happy with the activity of the United States in the process of settling the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Hasanov told journalists in Baku, according to AFP news agency.

He said U.S. negotiators are seen in his country as influenced by what he called the Armenian lobby.

“Unfortunately, some institutions and parties in the United States, under the influence of the Armenian lobby, are losing their neutrality and openly supporting Armenia,” he said. “We think this is not in accord with the mission of the United States, especially the American mission as co-chair of the Minsk Group.”

The U.S. is one of three co-chairs, along with France and Russia, of the so-called Minsk Group, which is trying to negotiate a resolution to the longstanding conflict. Hasanov claimed that U.S. pressure on Turkey over the agreements with Armenia comprises its impartiality in the Karabakh peace process.

The spokesman for the US Embassy in Azerbaijan countered Hasanov’s criticism. He said that as one of the three countries co-chairing the Minsk Group, the United States balanced its efforts, understanding that both Azerbaijan and Armenia must accept the principles of the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“The United States has long been supporting efforts aimed at the achievement of a long-term, peaceful and fair resolution of the Karabakh conflict,” the head of the public policy department at the US embassy in Azerbaijan, Terry Davidson, told news.az today.

The criticism came the day after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev again stated that Baku has accepted the co-chairs’ recently amended peace plan on Karabakh “with minor exceptions.” He said the Armenian side is unwilling to go along with the proposed settlement and is now stalling for time.

The mediators have assured Baku that they will “try to convince it to accept that proposal,” Aliyev said, according to Azerbaijani media. “If they don’t accept this proposal, then I think [further] negotiations will become meaningless,” he warned.

Yuri Merzlyakov, the Minsk Group’s outgoing Russian co-chair, said late last month that Yerevan disagrees with some points of what the mediating troika calls “an updated version” of the basic principles of Karabakh peace originally put forward in 2007. He downplayed the unspecified objections, saying that they do not bode ill for the success of the protracted negotiating process.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian earlier dismissed the Azerbaijani statements as misleading. He claimed that the Azerbaijani “exceptions” outweigh provisions acceptable to Baku.

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