YEREVAN, June 23. /ITAR-TASS/. French President Francois Hollande’s offer to arrange a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Paris was more than concrete, but Baku did not agree with it, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan said on Monday, June 23.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began on February 22, 1988. On November 29, 1989 direct rule in Nagorno-Karabakh was ended and Azerbaijan regained control of the region. However, later a joint session of the Armenian parliament and the top legislative body of Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia.
On December 10, 1991, Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh held a referendum, boycotted by local Azeris, which approved the creation of an independent state.
The struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh escalated after both Armenia and Azerbaijan obtained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. By the end of 1993, the conflict had caused thousands of casualties and created hundreds of thousands of refugees on both sides. An unofficial ceasefire was reached on May 12, 1994.
As of August, 2008, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group were attempting to negotiate a full settlement of the conflict. On August 2, 2008, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan travelled to Moscow for talks with Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russian president at the time. As a result, the three presidents signed an agreement that calls for talks on a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov said at a joint press briefing with Lavrov earlier that Baku was waiting for concrete proposals following up on Hollande’s initiative to arrange a new meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“For some reason, Azerbaijan constantly dislikes proposals put forth on behalf of the international community by the co-chairs, including those to strengthen the ceasefire regime, withdraw snipers and create a mechanism for investigating incidents. It does not like proposals made as one whole and contained in five statements of the presidents of the five co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group. There are simply no concrete alternatives to proposals made by the co-chairs and aimed solely at ensuring a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Nalbandyan said.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan confirmed earlier reiterated Armenia’s commitment to a speedy resolution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto independent but unrecognized state in Azerbaijan populated mainly by Armenians, on the basis of international law and join statements of the Minsk Group co-chairs.
“We firmly believe that a new war cannot resolve the conflict,” Sargsyan said.
In his opinion, “confrontation will only lead to destabilization, provoke tensions and arms race, and further aggravate interstate contradictions, foment ethnic and religious strife, and threatens the security of other countries”.
Sargsyan said that his country would do everything it can to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue peacefully.
“We will do everything we can to solve the Karabakh problem peacefully,” the president said.
“The [settlement] process is underway, and we are acting constructively in this process,” Sargsyan said.
“We will do our best to find a fair solution,” he said. “The stronger we are, the more combat capable our army is, the better our positions at the talks will be.”
However, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could be resolved only if the territorial integrity of his country was ensured.
“The conflict can be resolved only within the framework of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. There is no other solution, and I have no doubts that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity,” the head of state said.
He stressed that Azerbaijan was seeking to solve the issue “peacefully”.
“We hope for a peaceful resolution yet. To this end, the Armenian side should unconditionally comply with the resolutions of international organizations, including the UN Security Council, free the occupied territories and Azerbaijani citizens should return to their homes. After that peace and stability will come to the region,” Aliyev said.
He said the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was the “biggest source of threat” in the region.
Azerbaijan and its people “will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on their historical land”, he said.“Nagorno-Karabakh will never get independence. The people who live in Nagorno-Karabakh now, and the Azeris will certainly return there should live in autonomy. This is a well known international approach,” the president said.
He made it clear that Azerbaijan would “never step aside from its position of principle”.
The head of state called for a speedy and fair settlement in Karabakh on the basis of international law.
Speaking of the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh, he said it was “a matter of the future”.
“We have said many times that we will never agree to any status for Nagorno-Karabakh outside Azerbaijan, and international law supports our positions,” the president said.
Aliyev urged Armenia to continue peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh.