By Anna Saghabalian
Azerbaijan will wreck the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and will have to negotiate only with the Karabakh Armenians if it succeeds in pushing a resolution condemning Armenia through the United Nations, Foreign Minister Oskanian said on Tuesday.
The stark warning came just hours before the UN General Assembly was due to discuss Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories around Karabakh. Azerbaijan has been lobbying for a UN condemnation of the resettlement of Armenian families on those lands.
“Azerbaijan makes a mistake by restoring to such step,” said Oskanian. “If the resolution passes, I am confident that they will realize their mistake later on.”
“We are not concerned about passage of such a resolution,” he added, reiterating Yerevan’s threats to end direct contacts with Baku that have taken place without the participation of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) since 1998.
The Azerbaijani leadership has refused to directly negotiate with the NKR, claiming that it is an illegal entity controlled by Armenia. “If Armenia suggests conducting negotiations with Nagorno-Karabakh, let it ... withdraw its occupation forces from Azerbaijan's territory and stop providing resources to separatists from its budget,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev said on Monday. “Then we will solve the Karabakh problem in the shortest period of time.”
Aliev also sounded upbeat about mustering sufficient international support for a pro-Azerbaijani UN resolution. "We are trying to increase the number of countries supporting us, and I am convinced that the role of the resolution will be decisive," he said, according to the Associated Press.
The General Assembly debate was recommended on October 27 by the UN General Committee at the request of Azerbaijan and several other Muslim nations, notably Pakistan and Turkey. Representatives of France, Russia and the United States, which jointly spearhead Karabakh peace talks, joined Armenia in opposing such a discussion.
However, they are unlikely to go to great lengths in blocking the anti-Armenian resolution bound win the support of dozens of Muslim countries. Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Margherita Boniver, in Yerevan on an official visit, indicated after talks with Oskanian that her country as well as other members of the European Union will abstain in the vote.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Boniver, Oskanian made it clear that regardless of the vote’s outcome the Armenian government will block any UN mediation of the Karabakh peace process and in particular a dispatch of UN observers to the occupied Azerbaijani districts sought by Baku. “The UN can not have a say on sending a mission there,” he said, adding that the Armenian side is otherwise ready to allow an international inspection of the buffer zone around Karabakh.
Oskanian further warned that by raising the issue with the UN Azerbaijan risks reversing progress which he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov made during a series of meetings in Prague earlier this year. “The continuity of the Prague process depends on the UN resolution,” he said. “If the Azerbaijani variant is adopted there can simply be no Prague process. There is no question about that.”
Oskanian and Mamedyarov reportedly submitted to the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents framework peace proposals on Karabakh. The two leaders discussed them during lengthy peace talks in Kazakhstan in September but announced no agreements afterward.
(Photolur photo: Oskanian meeting with Boniver.)