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Aliyev Sets Conditions For Karabakh Ceasefire


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Ethnic Armenian soldiers stand at a fighting position on the frontline, October 21, 2020

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has said that Baku is ready to halt hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh if Armenia accepts a framework peace accord put forward by the United States, Russia and France.

“We are ready today to negotiate a ceasefire,” he told the Fox News TV network in an interview publicized by his office on Sunday. “But at the same time, Armenia, its prime minister must say that they support the basic principles [of a Karabakh settlement] drafted by the U.S., Russia and France.”

Aliyev said that Armenia should agree to “substantive” negotiations on those principles calling for a phased resolution of the Karabakh conflict. He claimed that Yerevan has “imitated” such talks until now.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian dismissed Aliyev’s statement. Mane Gevorgian said that the current Armenian government has always expressed readiness to seek a compromise-based solution in contrast to Baku’s “maximalist” stance.

AZERBAIJAN -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev gestures as he addresses the nation in Baku, October 20, 2020
AZERBAIJAN -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev gestures as he addresses the nation in Baku, October 20, 2020

In separate comments to the Sputinik news agency, Gevorgian said that Yerevan is “committed” to seeking a peace deal that would be based on the principles cited by Aliyev. “Armenia is prepared for a ceasefire and a negotiating process,” she said.

The warring sides twice reached ceasefire agreements brokered by Russia and France earlier this month. The large-scale fighting in the conflict zone has continued since then, however, with each side accusing the other of violating the agreements.

The Russian-mediated deal also committed Baku and Yerevan to “embarking on substantive negotiations with the aim of rapidly achieving a peaceful settlement.” It said the talks will focus on the “basic principles” that were first drafted by the U.S., Russian and French mediators over a decade ago.

“Their essence is known: a phased liberation of districts around Karabakh while observing security guarantees for Karabakh and ensuring a reliable link between Armenia and Karabakh until determining the final status of Karabakh,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on October 14.

Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits a military hospital in Yerevan where soldiers wounded during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh are treated, October 23, 2020.
Armenia -- Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visits a military hospital in Yerevan where soldiers wounded during fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh are treated, October 23, 2020.

The conflicting parties reported on Sunday continued fighting and shelling of civilian areas on either side of the Karabakh “line of contact.” Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said 11 more of its soldiers have been killed in action, raising to 971 the total number of combat deaths within its ranks. The Azerbaijani army has still not disclosed its combat casualties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that as many as 5,000 soldiers from both sides have died since the outbreak of the war on September 27.

The hostilities continued despite what U.S. President Donald Trump described on Friday as “good progress” in U.S. efforts to restore a ceasefire regime. Trump spoke shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held separate walks in Washington with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.

The ministers also met with Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser. “In my meeting with Azerbaijani FM [Jeyhun Bayramov] I pressed for an immediate ceasefire, then a return to Minsk Group-facilitated negotiations with Armenia and rejection of outside actors further destabilizing the situation,” O’Brien said afterwards.

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