Speaking after their trilateral meeting in Moscow held on Tuesday, Lavrov said they discussed “the problem of guaranteeing the rights and security of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in the context of ensuring the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.” He said Yerevan “understands the need to convince the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh” to reach agreements with Baku stemming from international conventions on ethnic minorities.
“The Azerbaijani side is ready to provide such guarantees on a mutual basis to persons living on its territory. The Armenians are ready to do the same regarding the application of all conventions to citizens living in the Republic of Armenia,” added Lavrov.
Lavrov’s remarks were construed by Armenian observes as a linkage between the status of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population and the return of Armenia’s former Azerbaijani residents officially or unofficially demanded by Baku.
Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan rejected the linkage on Thursday. In written comments to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, Mirzoyan said ensuring the rights and security of Karabakh’s “indigenous” residents is a “completely different” issue.
“It cannot in any way be related to the topic of the rights of ‘citizens living’ in the Republic of Armenia’ provided for by international obligations and fully protected by the Republic of Armenia,” he said.
“At the last trilateral meeting in Moscow, there was no discussion, let alone agreement, beyond this logic,” added Mirzoyan.
An Armenian ambassador-at-large, Edmon Marukian, said late on Wednesday that Yerevan could discuss the sensitive issue only in conjunction with the fate of at least 100,000 ethnic Armenians who fled Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan in 1988-1991.
Tigran Grigorian, a Yerevan-based analyst, was unconvinced by these assurances. He said the language used by Lavrov marked another diplomatic setback for Armenia.
“We are dealing with the incompetence of Armenian diplomacy,” Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Baku has been pushing its demands through some loyal natives of Armenia who describe themselves as the leaders of “the community of Western Azerbaijan.” They claimed last week that their return to Armenia was on the agenda of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s July 15 meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian held in Brussels.
Pashinian said on Tuesday that the fate of these Azerbaijanis cannot be linked to the issue of the Karabakh Armenians’ “rights and security.” “It is proportionate instead to the topic of the security and rights of Armenians from Baku, Sumgait, Gyanja or Nakhichevan,” he told reporters.