YEREVAN (Hetq)—A rare visit to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh last week by a prominent Azeri diplomat and public figure signal the possibility that Baku is now seeking to negotiate directly with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Karabakh’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday
“The interest shown by official Baku regarding the visit to Karabakh are strong grounds to infer that the Azeri government is seeking ways to drastically alter the course of the negotiations and to enter direct talks with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic without the assistance of outside mediators,” the statement said.
“There is no alternative” to the inclusion of Karabakh in the negotiations process, the Foreign Ministry added.
“The Nagorno Karabakh leadership once again displayed its good will and agreed to host the intelligentsia representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” the statement said, adding that the visit reaffirmed Stepanakert’s “principal allegiance to the Karabakh conflict peaceful settlement process.”
The Azerbaijanis were accompanied by Polad Bulbuloglu, Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Russia, Mikhail Shvydkoy, a former Russian culture minister who acted on behalf of President Dmitry Medvedev. They were joined in Karabakh by Armen Smbatian, the Armenian ambassador in Moscow. Bulbuloglu and Smbatian already organized a similar trip two years ago.
Two Azeri parliamentarians, Khavva Mamedova and Chingiz Ismailov, were removed from the delegation before the trip for their pronounced anti-Karabakh and anti-Armenian positions, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The delegation crossed into Karabakh on July 3, from a northern section of the heavily fortified Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact. Troops deployed there temporarily cleared the area of landmines to ensure the group’s safe passage.
This visit, according to the Foreign Ministry is “especially notable” because it allowed the delegation to see that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is an “existing state” that has overcome Azeri aggression, an imposed war, and an illegal blockade, to reach unprecedented progress in all spheres of its economic life.