YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The international community should send a clear message to Azerbaijan to end its denial, sit at the negotiating table and try to settle the Karabakh issue in a mutually acceptable way, Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Monday in a joint press conference with head of the Council of Europe’s AGO Group Per Sjogren.
The diplomats, who make up the Council’s AGO Group monitoring Armenia’s compliance with its Council of Europe commitmen’s, spent the past two days meeting senior government and law-enforcement officials in Yerevan to provide consultation on ending Armenia’s political crisis, sparked by last month’s presidential elections.
Oskanian told reporters that the AGO Group’s proposals are "aimed at improving the situation" and will therefore be discussed by the government. "I am very satisfied with the content of our meeting and am confident that we will soon feel the positive results of the visit by the Ago Group," he said without elaborating.
During the press conference, Oskanian accused Azerbaijan of seeking to walk away from a framework peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh, which international mediators hope will be finalized in the coming months.
He faulted Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s of aggravating the current situation by refusing to meet his newly elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, on the sidelines of this week’s NATO summit in Romania.
Azerbaijan needs to compromise and come to the table to hammer out a mutually acceptable agreement with Armenia and Karabakh, Oskanian remarked.
Armenia was willing to have the sideline meeting from the beginning, but Azerbaijan is playing a very dirty game," he charged. "What they are doing now is in tune with their recent steps. First, to try to disband the Minsk Group and thereby abandon a document created as a result of two-year work by the Armenian and Azerbaijani parties." Azerbaijan played a "dirty game," Oskanian said.
Oskanian referred to the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement, which were formally submitted to the conflicting parties by the US, Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group last November. "[Azerbaijan] had agreed to all of the principles contained in that document," he said.
Ambassador Sjogren noted that dialogue is the only way to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict. When Armenia and Azerbaijan joined the European Neighborhood, the Council of Europe assumed the responsibility of resolving the conflict peacefully, he said. In order to reach that goal, it is necessary to continue the negotiation process within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, he added.
In other news, Deputy President of the International Crisis Group Nick Grono, in an interview with Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency, said Azerbaijan should continue talks within the Minsk Group.
"We believe the negotiations should continue within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, but also advocate for a greater EU involvement in the process," he said. "The conflict must be solved peacefully and the ultimate status of the disputed region should be defined later after other confidence-building measures have been put in place."
Grono said it is very important to continue negotiations and avoid violations of the ceasefire agreement. The OSCE should consider stepping up its monitoring of the frontline to avoid similar incidents in the future, he said, adding that the parties should refrain from militant rhetoric and promote a dialogue between the people of both countries.
The US Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Matthew Bryza also told Trend on Sunday that Washington believes that Azerbaijan and Armenia must arrive at a common opinion on the "basic principles" of the Karabakh conflict settlement.
But the chances for coming to a basic agreement are increasingly looking bleak as Azerbaijan continues to escalate its aggressive stance toward the Minsk Group.
Colonel Seyran Shahsuvaryan, a spokesperson for the Armenian Defense Ministry, told Armenpress Monday that Azeri Media is falsely reporting that Armenian Armed Forces opened fire on Azeri positions late Sunday night.
The Azerbaijani propaganda machine periodically disseminates false information to mislead its own people, he explained.
According to Azeri media, Armenian Armed Forces opened fire from the positions of Berd, Noyemberyan and Ijevan, as well as from Terter and Fizuli regions. There are no casualties, according to Azeri news sources.
Azerbaijan’s baseless accusations against Armenian are unacceptable, Shahsuvaryan noted.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense Monday accused the three Minsk Group co-chair countries–Russia, the US and France–of stirring up a new war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s criticism of the Minsk Group has reached new heights since the three countries voted against a UN demanding that Armenian troops pull out of Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Unfortunately, the co-chairs have failed over these 15 years to find a conflict settlement option," said Eldar Sabirogly, a spokesman for Azerbaijani defense ministry.
The co-chairs should not have voted against the resolution, he said.
"Instead of trying to prevent new bloodshed, they have taken sides with one of the conflicting parties and therefore their activity is aimed actually at inflaming a new war," he said
Incidentally, the deputy Secretary of Azerbaijan’s governing New Azerbaijan Party said Monday that the replacement of the Minsk Group’s co-chairs would be detrimental to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.
The Conflict can only be solved within the framework of the OSCEK Mink Group, according to Mubariz Gurbanli, who is also a member of the Azeri Parliament.
The mediators to the conflict must be strong in order to hammer out a peace, he said, adding that the co-chairs have great authority in the world, replacing them with weaker co-chairs won’t lead to a settlement if the conflict.