Azerbaijan rejected over the weekend an Armenian proposal to sign of a non-aggression pact before the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, saying that Yerevan should first ensure the liberation of occupied Azerbaijani territories.
President Serzh Sarkisian made the proposal in an interview with Euronews television that was aired late on Friday. “That would create an atmosphere of trust in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said. “And in those conditions, we would start negotiations over a settlement.”
“If the head of Armenia wants to eliminate the threat of use of force [by Azerbaijan,] then let him eliminate the causes that can lead to the use of force,” a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Elkhan Polukhov, said on Saturday. “Namely, to withdraw Armenian forces from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.”
According to Azerbaijani media, Polukhov said Baku will therefore retain its “right to restore territorial integrity” which he said is guaranteed by international law. Azerbaijani leaders have repeatedly threatened to solve the Karabakh conflict by military means if the protracted peace talks with Armenia fail to yield an agreement.
Non-use of force or threat of force as well as territorial integrity and peoples’ right to self-determination are the three fundamental principles of a Karabakh settlement favored by international mediators and upheld by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at a ministerial conference held in Athens late last year. The foreign ministers of both Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a relevant declaration that was adopted by the forum.
Sarkisian called for an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on non-use of force in response to a question about Baku’s claims that it will never come to terms with the loss of Karabakh. He stood by the official Armenian line that Karabakh has never been part of an independent Azerbaijan and should therefore remain under Armenian control.
Sarkisian did not comment on the mediators’ recently amended basic principles of Karabakh peace and chances of their acceptance by the conflicting parties in the course of this year.