The flow of gas through a pipeline passing through Azerbaijani-controlled territory stopped late on Friday nearly three months after Azerbaijani government-backed protesters blocked Karabakh’s sole land link with Armenia and the outside world.
The gas supply has been regularly disrupted during the blockade, adding to shortages of energy, good, medicine and other essential items experienced by Karabakh’s population. Armenia’s electricity supplies to Karabakh were similarly cut off by Baku on January 10, leading to daily power cuts there. They have still not been restored.
Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, held on Sunday an emergency meeting with other officials in Stepanakert to discuss his administration’s response to the latest disruption.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s office said on Monday that it is inviting “representatives of Karabakh’s Armenian community” to visit Baku for further talks on Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan and “infrastructure projects.” The authorities in Stepanakert did not immediately respond to the move.
Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials already met at the headquarters of Russian peacekeepers near Stepanakert on March 1. The two sides gave differing accounts of the agenda and purpose of the meeting.
Karabakh’s leadership said its participants discussed the restoration of “unimpeded” traffic thorough the Lachin corridor and Armenia’s energy supplies to the Armenian-populated region.
An official Azerbaijani readout of the talks said, however, that they focused on the Karabakh Armenians’ “integration into Azerbaijan.”
Harutiunian insisted afterwards that his representatives refused to engage in such a discussion. He said Baku responded by threatening to take “tougher and more drastic steps” if Stepanakert persists in opposing the restoration of Azerbaijani rule.
The Karabakh leader linked that to the March 5 shootout that left three Karabakh police officers and two Azerbaijani soldiers dead. He warned the Karabakh Armenians to brace themselves for more Azerbaijani “provocations.”
Meanwhile, Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide, Hikmet Hajiyev, made clear on Monday that Baku continues to oppose the creation of an “international mechanism” for its dialogue with Stepanakert which is sought by Yerevan.
“There is no question of creating any international mechanism to discuss the rights and security of the Karabakh Armenians,” he told report.az. “We have never agreed to this.”
Hajiyev said the issue is Azerbaijan’s internal affair and Baku is not willing to discuss it with Yerevan or any other third party.
The Azerbaijani official responded to comments made by the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, Armen Grigorian, in a March 10 interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Grigorian said, among other things, that Armenia will not sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan without negotiating security guarantees for Karabakh. Such guarantees, he said, could include the establishment of a “demilitarized zone” around Karabakh or “international presence” there.