BAKU (Combined Sources)–Azerbaijan’s leader has effectively disavowed an earlier understanding that the Nagorno-Karaback conflict can be resolved politically, leaving the militarily option once again on the table.
In an interview with RAI International TV, while on a visit to Italy, President Ilham Aliyev said he remained optimistic about an “easy solution” to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict if “Armenia abided by the principles of the declaration signed in Moscow.”
But Aliyev insisted the nonbinding document signed between the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian presidents earlier this month still left a military option open for Baku to reestablish control over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been independent from Azerbaijan since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s.
“There is not a single commitment [in the declaration] that would keep Azerbaijan from resorting to a military option,” the Azerbaijani leader underscored.
Aliyev’s statement is in stark contrast to the assurances by Armenia’s top leadership and governing forces that nonuse of force has been one of the fundamental achievemen’s of the November 2 declaration in which the signatories pledge an intensified search for a “peaceful, political resolution to the conflict” based on the ongoing negotiations led by the OSCE’s Minsk Group. The document further stresses the importance of continued efforts by the Group’s American, French and Russian co-chairs to work out the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement acceptable to the conflicting parties.
The part of the declaration referring to ‘a political solution’ has been presented in Armenia as a provision that largely excludes a military solution to the Karabakh conflict. Critics of the Armenian government, however, as well as officials in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic itself have expressed their concerns that Stepanakert’s absence from among the signatories of the Moscow document might mean that Armenia has formally supplanted the republic from further talks.
Commenting on this, Aliyev argued that by signing, the Armenian leadership admitted the conflict was between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“It had not been so before as Armenia had tried to prove to all that the conflict is between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh,” Aliyev said.
“Second of all, the declaration calls for a settlement of the conflict based on international norms and principles. It means that the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council calling on Armenia’s armed forces to end the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories must be respected,” Aliyev said.
Aliyev’s statemen’s come almost two weeks after Azeri Armed Forces fired at Nagorno-Karabakh Republic border units in an attempt to infiltrate the south-eastern border in Fizuli, violating the cease-fire agreement and the recently signed declaration in Moscow.
The operation, which continued until the early hours of the next morning, was rebuffed by the Nagorno -Karabakh Armed Forces, which successfully forced the Azeri forces to retreat.
The assault occured as the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group were visiting Karabakh as part of their conflict resolution effort in the region.
The OSCE held a crisis monitoring mission near the Fizuli region earlier this week.
The news also follows Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan’s announcement late Tuesday that the foreign ministers of Armenia, Turkey and Azerabiajan would meet on December 4-5 for talks in Helsinki on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.