Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks could and should resume following the deadliest fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh registered since 1994, according to Armenia’s Foreign Minister Nalbandian.
In televised remarks broadcast late on Wednesday, Nalbandian said Azerbaijan “will have to return to the negotiating process” after what he described as a failure of its attempt to forcibly end the Karabakh conflict
“I think that nobody needs new hostilities and wars,” he told Armenian Public Television. “We should carry on with the negotiation path and try to find a way of solving the problem only through peace negotiations. I think that is possible.”
Nalbandian claimed that Baku launched offensive military operations at the northern and southern sections of the Karabakh “line of contact” after failing to clinch more concessions from the Armenians as well as international mediators. “The goal was obvious: to solve the problem by military means,” he said.
“I think that Azerbaijan failed to achieve its minimum and maximum goals,” added Nalbandian. “It will now have to return to the negotiation process … and continue negotiations.”
Baku insists that its troops went on a “counteroffensive” in and around Karabakh on April 2 in response to Armenian “armed” provocations. It says tensions on the frontline will remain high until Armenia ends its “illegal occupation of Azerbaijani lands.”
The fighting, which left at least 100 soldiers from both sides dead, largely ground to a halt on April 5 following a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreed in Moscow. In the meantime, the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group toured the conflict zone, trying to contribute to the ceasefire regime and exploring ways of reviving the peace process.
“Of course, it’s not easy to restart negotiations,” said Nalbandian. “Appropriate conditions need to be put in place, and that’s what the three co-chairs are trying to do.”
The minister did not say whether he or other Armenian officials could hold such talks with their Azerbaijani counterparts in the coming weeks.
The mediators said in Yerevan on Saturday that they stand by their Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement, a framework peace accord drafted about a decade ago and repeatedly modified since then. The document envisages the conduct of a referendum in Karabakh on the disputed territory’s status after the return to Azerbaijan of surrounding Armenian-controlled districts.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev came very close to cutting a peace deal along these lines at a 2011 meeting in Kazan, Russia. Yerevan accused Aliyev of scuttling the deal with last-minute additional conditions.
Nalbandian insisted that the document discussed at Kazan is still on the table but would not clarify whether the mediators have amended it in any way. He stressed only that “the main essence of this negotiating process is that Karabakh can never become part of Azerbaijan.”