DAVOS, Switzerland (Combined Sources)–Azeri President Ilham Aliyev last week demanded at the World Economic Forum that Armenia pull out troops from ‘internationally recognized’ Azerbaijani land, claiming that cooperation would be impossible otherwise.
The World Economic Forum’s organizers had tried to bring Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev out on the same stage for a panel discussion on January 29, titled “The Great Game Revisited."
The panel, which also included Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Motakki, began without Iranian and Armenian representation, with the moderator explaining that Sarkisian was only five minutes away.
But Armenia’sent Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian in Sarkisian’s place. Arriving almost half way into the discussion, Nalbandian was asked by the moderator to make his resonses relatively quick, as there was just "a little bit of time left in the panel."
When Aliyev was asked optimistically if Davos 2009 might be the first step toward establishing formal diplomatic ties between Baku and Yerevan, Azerbaijan’s president rejected the suggestion, saying that "cooperation is not possible."
Aliyev said his country does not have relations with Armenia because of the "continued occupation of our territory by Armenian armed forces," though negotiations continue.
"I think our position is understandable and we do not demand something extraordinary," he said. "We demand that Armenia comply with internationally recognized law norms, comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and pull out the troops from Azerbaijani land."
"But unfortunately, as Prime Minister Erdogan said, for the last 17 years these negotiations did not lead to a resolution of the conflict. It did not lead to a peace agreement and it did not lead to the liberation of Azerbaijani territory — the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan," Aliyev said.
"Under these circumstances, of course, we cannot talk about any kind of cooperation — whether it is energy or transportation. And [as long as] our lands are under occupation, this cooperation is not possible," Aliyev said. "And then the peace will come, communications will open and all the countries of the region will take advantage of the opportunities of each other."
Nalbandian, who was not given a chance to respond, sat by watching Motakki discuss the "crisis of the Caucasus" and Iran’s "good and constructive relations" with Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the nearly hourlong panel, Armenia’s Chief diplomat was given less than five minutes to discuss Armenia’s perspectives on the region.
The panel was televised and can also be viewed on Youtube.