Speaking during a summit of Turkic nations held in Turkey on Thursday, Aliyev said Armenia should be “held responsible” for its refusal to given Azerbaijan an exterritorial land corridor to the Nakhichevan exclave.
Aliyev said Yerevan must also allow the return of thousands of Azerbaijanis who fled Soviet Armenia following the outbreak of the Karabakh conflict in 1988. He described them as the people of “western Azerbaijan” and said they must enjoy the kind of “individual rights and security” which Baku is ready to ensure for the Karabakh Armenians.
In a statement issued later in the day, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Aliyev’s comments amount to territorial claims to Armenia.
“The bellicose rhetoric of Azerbaijan’s leader is aimed at torpedoing efforts to establish stability in the South Caucasus and resorting to the use of large-scale force against both the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” it charged.
Yerevan already accused Baku of preparing the ground for another military assault on Karabakh following the March 5 shootout near Stepanakert which left three Karabakh police officers and two Azerbaijani soldiers dead. It has since repeatedly denied Azerbaijani allegations that it illegally ships weapons to Karabakh. Baku has threatened to use force to stop the alleged shipments.
The rising tensions in the conflict zone highlight a lack of progress towards the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty sought by Baku.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian claimed on Tuesday that the Azerbaijani side is rejecting most Armenian proposals regarding the would-be treaty and making more demands unacceptable to Yerevan. He said that he will not sign any “capitulation” deals with Aliyev.
Aliyev and Pashinian most recently met in Munich on February 18 for talks mediated by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Aliyev said after the talks that he is largely satisfied with their results.
The U.S. State Department announced later in February that the European Union’s top official, Charles Michel, is due to host another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit “in the coming days.” There have been indications so far that the summit could take place soon.
Thomas de Wall, a veteran British journalist and analyst who has written extensively about the Karabakh conflict, suggested on Thursday that Michel is unlikely to kick-start the peace process as long as Azerbaijan continues its blockade of the Lachin corridor.
“So the threat grows of more violence,” de Wall wrote on Twitter.