By Emil Danielyan and Shakeh Avoyan
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev has renewed his criticism of French, Russian and US negotiators trying to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying that their peace proposals fail to uphold his country’s territorial integrity. Aliev again threatened military action to win back control of the disputed territory if the mediators do not demand more concessions from the Armenian side, according to a newspaper report cited by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"What kind of agreement can we come to with the Armenian side if Armenia, having occupied our land, doesn't want to free it?," Aliev was quoted as saying in the Baku Worker newspaper, the official organ of the president's office.
The mediators co-chair the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Aliev said that a founding principle of the OSCE is territorial integrity of states, and that Azerbaijan wants the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict solved according to this.
"Either the OSCE Minsk Group takes a principled position in this question or we will have to liberate our land by military means," Aliev. "We, too, think that the problem should be solved by peaceful means but it is not being solved."
The 78-year-old Azerbaijani leader was quoted as making the comments at a meeting in Baku on Tuesday with Adrian Severin, the chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The criticism was another sign of Azerbaijan’s dissatisfaction with the Minsk Group’s most recent peace initiatives.
Armenian and Karabakh officials have implicitly accused Aliev of backtracking on a framework peace agreement which they say was reached earlier this year during OSCE-sponsored negotiations. The conflicting parties seemed close to a settlement as ever after the talks in Florida last April. However, the peace process apparently stalled shortly afterwards.
A senior US diplomat claimed on Wednesday that it is not in deadlock. “I think that there has been a lot of progress this year in the negotiations, and I would not characterize the present period as a dead point,” Ambassador Rudolf Perina, the newly appointed American representative to the Minsk Group, told reporters in Yerevan. Perina met with President Robert Kocharian and other officials as part of his first tour of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the new capacity.
The envoy sought to put an optimistic spin on the recent developments in the Karabakh peace process, saying: “It is normal in the negotiations that the closer one comes to a possible conclusion the more difficult the issues are, and sometimes it takes longer to deal with these issues.”
Perina also said he and the two other co-chairs of the Minsk Group, Russia’s Nikolay Gribkov and France’s Philippe de Suremain, will meet later this week before embarking on another round of shuttle diplomacy on November 3. He added that Washington is committed to a quick settlement of the conflict and will not be distracted by its ongoing war on terror.
The US diplomat will travel to Baku on Thursday to hold talks with Azerbaijani leaders.