By Emil Danielyan
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev has cancelled his upcoming crucial meeting with his Armenian counterpart which official Yerevan hoped would ascertain whether the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved in the foreseeable future.
The decision was announced late Wednesday amid renewed Azerbaijani criticism of the American, French and Russian mediators. President Ilham Aliev again accused the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of doing little to achieve a peaceful settlement of the dispute. He also warned ally Turkey against reopening its border with Armenia.
Guliev said that he will not travel to the Czech capital Prague to meet with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian because the agenda of the talks scheduled for Monday has not been specified.
There was no immediate reaction from the Minsk Group. Russia’s top Karabakh negotiator, Yuri Merzlyakov, was quoted as only telling an Azerbaijani television channel that the talks initiated by the mediators will not take place because “one of the parties” decided so. The information was confirmed by the Czech Foreign Ministry on Thursday.
The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan declined a comment. Its spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, told RFE/RL that the ministry has received no written notification from the mediators.
Oskanian said last week that the Prague meeting should clarify whether Baku is ready to revive Karabakh agreements reached by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Paris and the Florida island of Key West three years ago. He said Aliev will have to negotiate only with the Karabakh Armenians if he finally backpedals from those agreements.
Aliev, however, reiterated Baku’s vehement denial of any peace deals cut by his late father and predecessor Heydar at Paris and Key West. “There was and there is no agreement,” he told journalists in Baku. “And this is just another lie circulated by the Armenian side.”
Aliev went on to attack the Minsk Group which he said has done “nothing positive” since being set up in 1992. “When we are told that the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia should reach agreement themselves and the co-chairs will support whatever they decide, it is not a mediation,” he said.
The Azerbaijani leaders have repeatedly complained that peace proposals put forward by the mediators in recent years would not return Karabakh under Azerbaijani rule. Aliev declared recently that his oil-rich nation is not in a hurry to agree to a compromise deal because he believes it is the Armenians who suffer more from the unresolved conflict.
Aliev was also reported to warn that a reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, not ruled out by the current government in Ankara, would further complicate the Karabakh peace process because “Azerbaijan would lose in that case an important lever.” “It is no secret that the European Union and other influential countries are putting pressure on Turkey to open its border with Armenia,” he said. “But I have said many times that if that happens then the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will never be resolved.”
The Azeri leader added: “But I am sure that Turkey will not give in to that pressure. Turkey is a strong country and Azeri-Turkish friendship will be stronger than these factors.”
Reacting to the remarks, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the lifting of the Turkish blockade would on the contrary facilitate a Karabakh settlement. “Turkey could really be an important factor in political and economic developments in our region if it abandons its one-sided approaches favoring Azerbaijan,” a ministry statement said.