YEREVAN–Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated on Thursday that Azerbaijan will never agree to any peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would fail to restore Azerbaijani control over the region. During a visit to Nakhichevan, Aliyev was quoted by Azerbaijani news agencies as saying, "Nagorno-Karabakh will never be granted independence." Aliyev went on to say that the Karabakh Armenia’s should settle for a status of autonomy within Azerbaijan now or risk being offered no self-rule at all in the future. President Aliyev says his remarks are retaliation to a statement President Robert Kocharian made on December 15 that said he will not sign any agreement with Azerbaijan before next spring’s Armenian parliamentary elections. Kocharian explained that he did not want his political opponents to exploit this subject in their election campaigns. The most recent peace plan put forward by French, Russian and US mediators allows for the possibility of international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. It would enable Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population to determine the disputed territory’s status in a referendum. Despite their diametrically opposite positions on Karabakh’s status, the conflicting parties claim to have made considerable progress towards a compromise solution over the past two years. Aliyev and Kocharian raised fresh hopes for a Karabakh breakthrough following their latest meetings held in Minsk November 28. Kocharian made it clear last week that he will not sign any agreemen’s with Azerbaijan before next spring’s Armenian parliamentary elections. Analysts doubt that a peace deal will be made before presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2008.