By Hrach Melkumian
Armenia and Azerbaijan were locked in yet another diplomatic battle over Nagorno-Karabakh at a high-level conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Saturday.
Armenian officials attending the OSCE Ministerial Council’s annual session in Portuguese city of Porto said the Azerbaijani side delayed the adoption of a concluding statement by demanding that it refer to the disputed region as being part of Azerbaijan. Discussions on the final text of the document were still going on late in the evening.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL from Porto that the Azerbaijani delegation was trying to include language upholding Baku’s sovereignty over Karabakh. He claimed that the Azerbaijani demands were not backed by most OSCE member states.
Earlier this week, some Armenian officials claimed that Baku and Yerevan agreed a mutually acceptable wording on Karabakh ahead of the OSCE gathering. But according to Oskanian, those agreements were “not final.”
Addressing fellow foreign ministers from the OSCE member countries on Friday, Oskanian harshly criticized the Azerbaijani stance on Karabakh in a further sign of persisting tensions between the two Caucasus neighbors. He accused the regime of President Heydar Aliev of reneging on OSCE-sponsored peace agreements and repeated that Yerevan will never agree to Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule.
“In this new world, a Karabakh that did not belong to Azerbaijan in the non-Soviet years and that isn’t controlled by Azerbaijan today, cannot be part of Azerbaijan tomorrow,” he said, arguing that “new borders are being drawn and re-drawn in Europe, and divided countries are becoming reunified in different form.”
“The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group have demonstrated great flexibility and wisdom in moving this process forward. They have received no help from an Azerbaijan, which scandalously and ungratefully denigrates any initiative or solution proposed by any international entity that does not correspond to its maximalist rhetoric.”
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev, who spoke after Oskanian, rebutted the accusations.