BAKU (Reuters)–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev said on Saturday Armenia had rejected his proposal to end the lengthy dispute over the Nagorno-Karabagh enclave by restoring a blocked rail link in exchange for lost Azeri territory.
Aliyev told a group mediating in the dispute between the two former Soviet states–he had made the proposal at a meeting last month with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan.
The so-called Minsk group of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) has led attempts to negotiate a settlement over Nagorno-Karabagh–populated by ethnic Armenia’s but within Azerbaijan’s borders.
At a meeting with the group attended by journalists–Aliyev said Azerbaijan had offered to reopen a rail link between Baku and Armenia’s capital Yerevan in exchange for control over four districts Azerbaijan says are occupied by Armenian forces.
Armenia’says the areas are a ‘security zone.’
"We are hurt not only by the fact that our territories are occupied and that we have refugees living in our country–but also by the fact that we cannot display the truth," Aliyev said.
Armenia has made no mention of a deal being offered during the talks on the Azeri side of the common border. Kocharyan at the time described his meeting with Aliyev as ‘interesting’ with potential for progress in the future.
Nagorno-Karabagh was the first ethnic conflict to erupt in the ‘perestroika’ era of Soviet rule in 1988–when the enclave’s Armenian majority seceded from Azerbaijan–which had controlled the area since the 1920s.
More than 35,000 people died and a million were left homeless in six years of fighting–with Armenian forces seizing large tracts of Azerbaijan’s territory.
Periodic negotiations with mediators from Russia–the United States and France have failed to clinch a deal.
Azerbaijan–backed by the international community–insists Nagorno-Karabagh is part of its territory–while Armenia’supports Karabagh’s independence.
Aliyev and Kocharyan are due to meet again on October 7 at a summit of former Soviet republics in Moldova.