Azerbaijan's defense minister warned Tuesday that war could resume if Armenia recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh's independence.
At a meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Jim MacDougall, Defense Minister Safar Abiyev said that the long-standing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave posed a threat to the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is soon set to start delivering Caspian Sea oil to the Mediterranean.
"The Armenian leadership declares that it could recognize the independence of Nagorno Karabakh," Abiyev said, according to a Defense Ministry statement. "If that will be so, it could lead to the resumption of fighting."
Armenian President Robert Kocharian said last month that Yerevan could officially recognize the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh if negotiations on its status reach a dead end.
A 1994 cease-fire ended a six-year war that left Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, in Armenian hands. Some 30,000 people were killed and 1 million displaced. The lack of a resolution of the enclave's status has impeded economic development in the region.
Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian insisted that Nagorno Karabakh residents had the right to self-determination and that the conflict settlement process should be based on their decision. "The acceptance by Azerbaijan of this right may become the beginning of a serious process, and after it is recognized we can turn to other aspects of this issue and adopt a complex approach," Oskanian said Tuesday on Armenia's national television.
Oskanian spoke after an informal meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mamedyarov, on the sidelines of an OSCE summit in Ljubljana, Slovenia.