President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan on Wednesday rejected Yerevan’s position of returning Artsakh to the Karabakh peace negotiations, calling the suggestion advanced by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a change in the negotiations format.
Aliyev, who made the statement during his annual Norouz—new year—address, went further by saying that the conflict “must be resolved only within the territorial integrity” of Azerbaijan.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Pashinyan reiterated his policy stance that Artsakh must be represented in the peace talks, saying that what he was proposing was nothing new and Yerevan’s insistence to involve Artsakh in the negotiations should not be viewed as a challenge, but rather an invitation for dialogue with Baku.
“As you know, the Armenian side has raised questions about changing the format of the negotiations. However, Azerbaijan certainly cannot accept this,” said Aliyev during his address.
Last month the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders agreed to an OSCE Minsk Group proposal to hold an official meeting. Ahead of this as yet unscheduled meeting, Armenia and Artsakh held a joint meeting of their respective national security councils last week in Stepanakert where Pashinyan also said that the principles based on which the Minsk Group co-chairmen are mediating the peace talks must be clarified.
To that end, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan on Wednesday told reporters that the upcoming meeting between Pashinyan and Aliyev will not be “negotiations around the Nagorno-Karabakh resolution issue per se, but an effort to seek appropriate interpretations of the principles and elements of the negotiation process.”
“There are different interpretations of the three principles and six elements included in the [negotiation] document. Azerbaijan interprets them its own way, the Armenian side also has its own interpretation… Therefore, there is a need for a meeting just to work out an appropriate interpretation for all three principles and six elements, and only then understand how to move forward,” elaborated Naghdalyan.
The foreign ministry spokesperson also criticized Azerbaijan’s large-scale offensive-type military drills on the borders of Armenia and Artsakh without prior notification calling it ”a violation of international obligations outlined by the OSCE requirements.”
“The drills in no way whatsoever contribute to the strengthening of the atmosphere of trust in the region,” Naghdalyan said during Wednesday’s press briefing.
“Our representation at the OSCE has also raised this issue within OSCE circles and demanded relevant explanations from Azerbaijan,” she added.
Asked to comment on Azerbaijan’s deployment of a new military base at the border with Armenia, Naghdalyan emphasized that the move also does not contribute to strengthening an atmosphere of trust in the region. “Both Artsakh and Armenia have resolve and capabilities to defend [themselves] and give a counter-blow. Let no one doubt this issue because it is through this resolve that we are committed to take steps to establish peace,” she said.