Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian challenged Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to support his vision of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement that would be considered acceptable by all parties to the conflict as he addressed the second Paris Peace Forum in the French capital on Tuesday.
On a number of occasions Pashinian said that any solution to the protracted dispute must be acceptable to the peoples of Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. “Aliev can list the people of Azerbaijan first,” the Armenian premier said.
In his remarks to the audience, Pashinian dwelled on the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stressing that Azerbaijan refuses to engage in direct negotiations with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“At the same time, authorities in Baku insist that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan. This is odd. It means that they want territory without people. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh know that they will not have any guarantees of security within Azerbaijan,” he said.
Pashinian said that when Aliyev acknowledges that any solution to the conflict must be acceptable to all peoples, including the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, “it will mean that we have a breakthrough in the whole negotiation process.”
After Pashinian’s speech an Azerbaijani blogger, in particular, asked him about how his recent statement that “Nagorno-Karabakh is Armenia, period” helps the peace process.
To this Pashinian referred to statement coming from official Baku that different parts of Armenia are Azerbaijani territory. “And they continue threatening to occupy not only Nagorno-Karabakh, but also Syunik and capital Yerevan. Why are we making similar statements? Because we don’t want to leave an impression of being a frightened nation. No one can talk to us from the position of force,” Pashinian underscored.
The Armenian premier also took issue with the Azerbaijani blogger’s remark that Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan.
“If Nagorno-Karabakh is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan, why are you negotiating for deciding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh? Isn’t that strange?” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly Armenian-populated autonomous district in Soviet Azerbaijan, broke free from Baku’s control amid Soviet Union disintegration in the early 1990s, triggering a three-year war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and left ethnic Armenians in control of the region.
A Russia-brokered ceasefire put an end to large-scale fighting in 1994, but sporadic skirmishes along the line of contact have continued to claim human lives on both sides since then.
International diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict led by Russia, the United States and France as part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have brought little progress during the past 25 years.
Earlier this week, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov spoke optimistically about the prospect of negotiations, noting “certain progress” in the peace process.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) to comment on the statement, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalian on Tuesday said that no negotiations are currently held around a specific document.
“I wouldn’t want to comment on the enthusiasm, disappointment or optimism of Azerbaijan’s foreign minister regarding the peace process. I can only say that the peace process proceeds without ups and downs. I want to reaffirm that at present the parties do not conduct negotiations around any specific document,” Naghdalian said.