Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have briefly discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during their latest visits to Brussels.
The two men attended a dinner which was hosted by European Council President Donald Tusk late on Monday for the leaders of six former Soviet republics involved in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program. It was part of official celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the program.
Pashinian revealed his conversation with Aliyev when he spoke to RFE/RL at the EU headquarters in the Belgian capital. “It was a little talk about the current situation,” Pashinian told RFE/RL. He gave no details.
It was Pashinian’s and Aliyev’s fifth face-to-face contact in about eight months. Their first meeting held in Tajikistan in September was followed by a significant decrease in ceasefire violations in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Pashinian said that there are “no plans yet” for another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. “But I am sure that negotiations will continue,” he added. “And it is very important to bring back Nagorno-Karabakh to the negotiation table. It is impossible to resolve this conflict without Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Ever since he came to power one year ago, the Armenian premier has regularly called for Karabakh leaders’ direct involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. He told RFE/RL that Azerbaijan’s refusal to negotiate with them is the main hurdle to a peaceful settlement.
Speaking to Armenian reporters, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov reiterated Baku’s strong opposition to any change in the format of the negotiating process mediated by the United States, Russia and France.
“I think the key issue is not [Karabakh’s] participation or non-participation,” Mammadyarov said. “We need to show a serious political approach. We need to sit down and complete what I call substantive negotiations … because everyone knows very well what document is on the table. Why should we deceive ourselves.”
Mammadyarov insisted that a Karabakh peace is more important for Armenians than his country. “What have the Armenian people gained as a result of the 30-year war with Azerbaijan?” he said.
Mammadyarov and his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanian also briefly spoke in Brussels on Monday. They previously met in Moscow on April 15 for talks mediated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. A joint statement released by them said the warring sides reaffirmed their stated intention to strengthen the ceasefire regime around Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and to take other take confidence-building measures.
Mammadyarov said that the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are planning visit the region later this month to prepare for another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. He confirmed that the meeting would take place in Washington.