By Ruzanna Kyureghian in Paris
The French foreign ministry chided Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev on Wednesday for his latest remarks on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process which have drawn an angry rebuttal from Armenia.
A ministry spokeswoman said official Paris was “surprised” with Aliev’s disclosure of some alleged details of his negotiations with his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, held in the French capital last year. The talks were initiated and mediated by French President Jacques Chirac.
“It is somewhat surprising that President Aliev made such statements because details of the negotiations in Paris and, later on, in Key West can not be disclosed,” the official, Catherine Waliski, told RFE/RL. “They should be kept confidential as long as there is no final agreement between the two parties.”
Aliev admitted late last week that he and Kocharian agreed on the main terms of a Karabakh settlement. He claimed that the deal envisaged an exchange of territories whereby Azerbaijan would surrender its Armenian-occupied Lachin district in exchange for winning control of Armenia’s strategic Meghri district. The area bordering on Iran provides Azerbaijan with the shortest overland link with its isolated Nakhichevan exclave.
Armenian officials have strongly denied agreeing to give away Meghri, with Kocharian accusing Aliev on Tuesday of seeking to destabilize the political situation in Armenia where the idea of the land swap is highly unpopular. Kocharian claimed that Baku wants to secure more Armenian concessions on Karabakh by inciting his opponents to remove him from office.
The French official refused to confirm or refute Aliev’s claims, saying that the two presidents themselves had asked international mediators to keep details of the peace talks under wraps. “Of course, Heydar Aliev is free to say whatever he wants to the press or his public. But we can not comment on that in any way,” Waliski said.
According to her, Chirac has no immediate plans to host another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh. She said: “No decision has been taken on that so far. The important thing is that the [OSCE’s] Minsk Group continues to mediate in the Karabakh talks and encourage contacts between the two parties.”
France co-chairs the Group together with Russia and the United States. Senior diplomats representing the three countries met this week in Lisbon to discuss the future of the Karabakh peace process.
Armenian state television reported on Wednesday that the co-chairs will fly to the Estonian capital Tallinn next week to meet with Kocharian on the sidelines of his official visit to the Baltic state.