ANKARA—A stage-by-stage approach that includes the so-called gradual withdrawal of Armenian troops and the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border is being proposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, reported the Hurriyet Daily News.
The status of Karabakh would be defined at the final stage of the plan, said Azeri Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov.
“This is the only single instrumental approach if anyone is really interested in solving the Karabakh issue,” Azimov told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review during a trip to Ankara late last week.
The Azerbaijani official’s talks in the Turkish capital, which focused on the details of the two countries’ new cooperation plan as well as the Karabakh negotiations, preceded an expected trip this week by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Moscow.
“This proposal for a staged approach to the Karabakh dispute has been, to a certain extent, a skeleton of the negotiations for the co-chairs,” said Azimov, deputy foreign minister since 1994 and a diplomat who has participated in the Minsk process since 1992, actively working with Turkish ambassadors Candan Azer, Deryal Batıbay and Ünal Çeviköz.
“You have Armenians in the territories, it [Armenia] has to be there. The territory belongs to the Azerbaijanis. It [Azerbaijan] has to be there. You have to come up with a combination of these two within the framework of such a staged process that guarantees the process will not be reversed,” Azimov said.
The plan, which Ankara and Baku shared with international actors in the Minsk Group – Washington, Moscow and Paris – is based on an understanding aimed at bringing normality to Armenia in its relationship with Turkey and Azerbaijan. It also seeks to engage Armenians of Karabakh in normal life within the Azerbaijani territorial integrity.
“Legality has to be established. Normality has to be brought back and only after that can we decide on a status with the participation of both communities of Nagorno-Karabakh: the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities,” said Azimov.
“It probably sounds familiar if I say ‘bi-communal model’ – two communities voting on the issues of common life within the principles of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Would Armenia benefit from that? Of course, yes,” he added.
“Turkey has no role in the Karabakh resolution process,” said Tigran Balayan, a spokesman for the Armenia’s Foreign Ministry in response to Azimov’s statements.
“The scenario presented by Mr. Azimov is fantasy. It has been stated on numerous occasions that Turkey has no business in the conflict resolution process and it should refrain from interfering if it does not want to hinder the process,” added Balayan.