Azerbaijan insists on the restoration of its control over Nagorno-Karabakh despite accepting peoples’ right to self-determination as one of the core principles for resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov indicated on Wednesday. (UPDATED)
“Providing self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be a just and durable solution, and it can dramatically reduce tensions and challenges for peace and stability in the region,” Mammadyarov said in a speech at a ministerial conference in Athens of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The remark highlighted the conflicting parties’ differing public interpretations of the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The proposed agreement calls for the liberation of Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh and a future referendum of self-determination in the Armenian-controlled territory.
Mammadyarov and his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, reaffirmed their governments’ overall support for those principles in a joint statement on Tuesday that was also signed by top U.S., Russian and French diplomats. They agreed that the conflict’s resolution should based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples.
An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman said last month that the principle of self-determination does not call into question Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh. The region’s predominantly Armenian population could only determine the extent of its self-rule within Azerbaijan, he said.
Armenian officials insist, however, the Karabakh Armenians would be able to vote for independence, reunification with Armenia or return under Azerbaijani rule in the would-be referendum. “Self-determination means self-determination and territorial integrity territorial integrity,” the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan said on November 7, dismissing the Azerbaijani interpretation of the Minsk Group plan.
In his speech, Mammadyarov also accused Armenia of occupying almost 20 percent of his country’s internationally recognized territory, displacing hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis and destroying their cultural heritage. “We in Azerbaijan strongly believe that withdrawal of Armenian troops in a fixed time framework from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will open a tremendous opportunity for the region, providing different environment of predictability, development and benefit for everyone and for the entire region. This is the core of the issue,” he said.
Speaking at the OSCE forum later in the day, Nalbandian accused Mammadyarov of seeking to “distort” the essence of the Karabakh dispute and international efforts to resolve it. That, he said, is hampering further progress in the peace process.
Still, both ministers noted that the parties have moved closer to hammering out a compromise peace accord. “I should admit that there are positive dynamics in the latest talks and both sides together with the Minsk Group Co-chairs agreed to intensify negotiations,” said Mammadyarov.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Tuesday he is confident that a deal could be reached in the near future. “In a peace process it is very difficult to force the door or to push too hard because this is very fragile,” Reuters quoted him as telling reporters in Athens. “I am confident it will be done. Immediately? No. In the coming months? Yes.”