In a last-minute U-turn, Azerbaijan withdrew late on Thursday a draft resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, strongly opposed by Armenia, from the United Nations General Assembly. (UPDATED)
Azerbaijani officials attributed the move to an upcoming international fact-finding mission to Armenian-controlled territories in Azerbaijan proper surrounding Karabakh. It was swiftly welcomed U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In joint statement issued on Friday after their latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy, the co-chairs also stressed that the Minsk Group “remains the sole framework for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
The proposed resolution, which was expected to be approved by the General Assembly on Thursday, upholds the right of Azerbaijanis “expelled” from those territories and the disputed enclave itself to return to their homes. It also urges the OSCE to investigate the conflicting parties’ compliance with “international humanitarian law” on the ground.
Armenia has warned that the document would cause “serious damage” to international efforts to end the Karabakh dispute. It insists that no international bodies except the Minsk Group should get involved in the conflict’s resolution.
Addressing the General Assembly, Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN, Agshin Mehdiyev, asked the issue to be rescheduled for the assembly’s next year-long session which begins in mid-September. Mehdiyev told RFE/RL that the reason for the postponement is a “field assessment mission” to the occupied Azerbaijani lands planned by the Minsk Group co-chairs. He said that he hopes the mission outcome will support Azerbaijan’s position on the Karabakh conflict.
“As far as I know the Armenian side continues to bring people from abroad and to settle them in the occupied territories to change the demographic situation, to destroy the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in the occupied territories,” Mehdiyev claimed.
In their latest statement, the mediators reaffirmed their intention to conduct the mission by mid-October. They said they discussed its details with Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders and “will finalize their preparations for the mission in the nearest future.” The also urged both sides to adopt “a more constructive approach” in the ongoing peace talks.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry insisted on Friday that the fact-finding visit is “in no way connected” to the Azerbaijani resolution. It pointed to the mediators’ September 6 statement which said the mission had been agreed with all conflicting parties, in principle, weeks before the draft resolution was submitted to the General Assembly.
In a written statement, the ministry claimed that Baku withdrew it under pressure from the three mediating powers. “We are thankful to all those UN member states and in particular to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, which through their stance prevented Azerbaijan from deviating and damaging the negotiation process of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” read the statement.
The U.S., Russia and France had opposed a similar resolution which Baku managed to push through the UN assembly in March 2008. It was backed by 39 mostly Islamic countries.
“We are grateful to all of our brothers for this support,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told the Baku-based ambassadors of Muslim states earlier this month, in a meeting apparently linked to the General Assembly’s September 9 session. “Muslim countries must always demonstrate solidarity both in bilateral ties and within the framework of international organizations,” he said.