Azerbaijan has denied Armenian claims that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev presented his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts with a new international plan to end the Nagorno-Karabakh at their meeting in Saint Petersburg last month.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian referred to them as “a new version of the Madrid principles” of a Karabakh settlement at a joint news conference in Yerevan with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday.
President Serzh Sarkisian likewise spoke of “the latest version” of the proposed framework accord as he met with the visiting French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on Saturday. A statement by his office said the document was “presented in the course of the Saint Petersburg negotiations between the presidents of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan.”
According to senior figures in the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), Sarkisian reacted positively to the new peace proposals, unlike his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev. They have claimed that Aliyev cut short his visit to the Russian city as a result. The Armenian side reported the worst fighting in Karabakh in over two years the next day.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry dismissed these statements late on Monday. “Even though Russia plays a large role in this process and the Russian president has taken part in several meetings [between Aliyev and Sarkisian,] proposals are drawn up only by the [Minsk Group] co-chairs,” Azerbaijani news agencies quoted the ministry spokesman, Elkhan Polukhov, as saying.
“Updated Madrid proposals exist only in the form of a document, and they were submitted to both parties last year,” Polukhov said. “Only various approaches were discussed in Saint Petersburg. The statement by Nalbandian is only aimed at distracting the Armenian and international publics from the essence of the issue.”
Baku has repeatedly claimed to have largely accepted a modified Madrid document that was drafted by the three mediating powers last fall. Armenian reaction to that document has been more ambiguous, with officials in Yerevan saying only that the document’s original version put forward in the Spanish capital in 2007 remains “a basis for negotiations.”
The three co-chairs made no mention of the Saint Petersburg in a statement issued after their latest tour of the conflict zone. They instead reiterated the U.S., Russian and French presidents’ joint calls for the parties to “take the next step and move towards completing work on the Basic Principles to enable the drafting of a peace agreement to begin.” They also urged the sides to “strictly observe the 1994 ceasefire and exercise restraint along the Line of Contact.”
“During their visit, the Co-chairs also presented to the parties their plan to undertake a mission to the occupied territories in this fall, which was accepted in principle,” added the statement.
Clinton pressed Armenia and Azerbaijan to overcome their remaining differences over the proposed settlement during her weekend trips to the two South Caucasus states. But after talks with Aliyev and Sarkisian she gave no clear indications that an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal is in the offing.