Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Friday condemned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for saying that both he and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian are not prepared for a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Aliyev also said that Baku is facing international pressure to come to terms with Karabakh’s de facto independence.
Kerry briefly mentioned the Karabakh issue when he spoke at a forum on international security in Washington last week. “There are some frozen conflicts in the world today: Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan-Armenia, where you can’t quite see that [decisive progress] right now because the leaders aren’t ready, because the tensions are there,” he said.
Aliyev angrily denounced Kerry’s remarks as pro-Armenian during a cabinet meeting in Baku. “To accuse Azerbaijan of being unwilling to settle the conflict is dishonest, to say the least,” he charged, according to the APA news agency. Blaming both conflicting parties for the stalemate amounts to “showing overt support for Armenia’s policy of occupation,” he said.
“We do not accept these statements,” Aliyev went on. “We believe that these statements must be corrected at the highest level as soon as possible. Or else, the [U.S.] mediating mission could be called into question.”
“This thesis was voiced officially. But behind the closed doors conversations are taking place, and pressure is exerted on Azerbaijan so that it agrees to Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence,” he revealed without elaborating.
Kerry became personally involved in joint U.S., Russian and French efforts to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute following the outbreak in early April of heavy fighting in and around Karabakh. He and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mediated the May 16 meeting in Vienna of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.
The Vienna summit was aimed at de-escalating tensions on the Karabakh frontlines. Sarkisian and Aliyev held follow-up talks in Russia on June 20 amid signs that the long-running peace process may be revived.
Kerry held separate meetings with Aliyev and Sarkisian on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Warsaw in early July. No further progress towards a Karabakh settlement has been reported since then.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov traded accusations when they met separately with the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in New York late last month.
In particular, Nalbandian said that Baku is refusing to honor confidence-building understandings reached at Vienna and Saint Petersburg. They were supposed to prevent further serious ceasefire violations in the conflict zone.
Aliyev claimed, however, Yerevan is now “trying to remove the issue from the global agenda” with the help of “the Armenian lobby.”