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Armenia on Tuesday dismissed as “self-deception” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s latest offer to grant Nagorno-Karabakh the status of an autonomous region in Azerbaijan.

“We will never agree to grant Nagorno-Karabakh independence,” Aliyev told Russian state television in an interview aired earlier in the day.

“But there can be a compromise on local self-government in Nagorno-Karabakh in the future; if we reach agreement it could be an autonomous republic,” he said. “We cannot make more concessions.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry was quick to scoff at Aliyev’s remarks. “Azerbaijan’s leadership had better stop engaging in self-deception and misleading the Azerbaijani society,” the ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, said in written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).

“The Azerbaijani leader already publicly acknowledged a week ago the real content of [Karabakh peace] negotiations when he said that Baku is being urged to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence,” added Balayan.

Speaking at an October 6 cabinet meeting in Baku, Aliyev complained that “pressure is exerted on Azerbaijan so that it agrees to Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence.” He appeared to refer to the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group.

Peace proposals made by the mediating troika over the past decade have called for a gradual liberation of virtually all seven districts around Karabakh that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. That would be followed by a referendum in which Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would determine the disputed territory’s internationally recognized status.

Armenian leaders have long stated that the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination must be at the heart of any Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal.

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