Official Yerevan denied Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov claims on Friday that details of Armenian troop withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territories will dominate his upcoming talks with his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian.
The two ministers are scheduled to meet next week in Almaty, Kazakhstan in yet another attempt to narrow the conflicting parties’ differences over the existing international plan to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Mammadyarov told journalists in Baku earlier in the day that the talks will center on time frames for the liberation of Kelbajar and Lachin, two of the seven Azerbaijani districts that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1993.
He said the parties still disagree on when the two districts, wedged between Karabakh and Armenia proper, should be put back under Azerbaijani control. Azerbaijan and the U.S., Russian and French mediators believe that should happen five years after the signing of a peace accord, he claimed.
“The Armenian side wants to continue discussions on this issue,” Mammadyarov added, according to the APA news agency. “I expect that we will be primarily dealing with this problem in Almaty.”
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian flatly denied that. “The withdrawal of Karabakh forces from any territory will be out of question until Azerbaijan agrees to accept Karabakh’s status in accordance with the results of an expression of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s will,” he said in a statement.
Eduard Sharmazanov, a spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), also dismissed Mammadyarov’s claims as “disinformation.” Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, he insisted that no Armenian territorial concessions can occur until there is an agreement on Karabakh’s final status. Sharmazanov described it as “the cornerstone of the conflict’s resolution.”
Armenian officials say that under the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the mediators, the status will be determined in a referendum to be held within the disputed region in the future.
But according to Mammadyarov, the proposed framework accord contains no such provisions. He said it only envisages the creation of a “polling committee” of representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the mediating powers that would decide, by consensus, “how to solve the issue of the status.”