By Anna Saghabalian
Armenia accused Azerbaijan on Monday of seeking to walk away from a framework peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh which international mediators hope will be finalized in the coming months.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian pointed to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s refusal to meet his newly elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, on the sidelines of this week’s NATO summit in Romania.
Commenting on the snub, Aliev’s chief foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, said at the weekend that the Armenian side needs such a meeting to shore up Sarkisian’s position at home, rather than to achieve further progress towards the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. “The Azerbaijani side is always ready for negotiations, but they must have a subject and a concrete goal,” he told the Turan news agency.
Oskanian dismissed such statements. “Azerbaijan is playing a very dirty game,” he charged. “What they are doing now is in tune with their recent steps. First, to try to disband the Minsk Group and thereby abandon a document created as a result of two-year work by the Armenian and Azerbaijani parties.”
Oskanian referred to the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement which were formally submitted to the conflicting parties by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group last November. “[Azerbaijan] had agreed to all of the principles contained in that document,” he said.
The proposed peace deal calls for a gradual settlement of the conflict that would lead to the liberation of virtually all Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories around Karabakh and indefinitely postpone agreement on the disputed territory’s status. In a joint statement issued in early March, the Minsk Group co-chairs urged the parties to “redouble their efforts to endorse the Basic Principles … and to begin as soon as possible the process of drafting a peace agreement on this basis.”