By Emil Danielyan
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev reiterated that his country will never come to terms with the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh but stopped short of threatening to win back the region by force as he was sworn in for a second term in office on Friday.
“Karabakh will never be independent,” news agencies quoted him as saying during his inauguration ceremony in Baku. “Azerbaijan will never recognize it. Neither in five, nor in ten, twenty years. Never.”
Aliev said Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is not the subject of long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks which have made considerable progress in recent years. But he did not mention details of the U.S., Russian and French mediators’ existing peace proposals that seem to uphold the Karabakh Armenians’ right to legitimize the dispute territory’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan in a future referendum.
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group hope that Aliev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian will meet soon and finally accept those proposals. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev publicly offered to host the meeting as he visited Yerevan earlier this week. Medvedev reportedly discussed the matter with Aliev by phone on his return to Moscow. No dates have been set yet for the potentially decisive Armenian-Azerbaijani summit, though.
“We are still interested in the continuation of negotiations and our hopes have not faded yet,” said Aliev. “We still believe that the negotiations may lead to a just settlement.
“The opposite side must come to terms with reality. And the reality is that today it is difficult and, I would say, impossible to compete with Azerbaijan.”
But while pledging to further boost military spending and the strengthen the Azerbaijani army, Aliev voiced no direct threats to resolve the Karabakh dispute by force if the Minsk Group process fails. He said instead that Azerbaijan will regain control over Karabakh by capitalizing on its “economic might” and international law.
Aliev regularly threatened the Armenians with war before the recent military conflict between Georgia and Russia. Armenian leaders claim that Georgia’s disastrous attempt to retake South Ossetia will discourage Baku from trying the military option in the foreseeable future. A senior U.S. official likewise said last week that the likelihood of renewed fighting around Karabakh has decreased since the Russian-Georgian war.