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Azerbaijan and Armenia unlikely to begin talks right now - experts

According to director of the Valdai international discussion club Fyodor Lukyanov, "the Azerbaijani side seems to believe that it can attain its goals by military means"

MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. Azerbaijan and Armenia are unlikely to sit down at the negotiating table right now to stop hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, Fyodor Lukyanov, director of the Valdai international discussion club, told TASS on Friday.

According to the expert, the situation is developing in such a way that the sides can hardly be expected to begin talks. Thus, in his words, Azerbaijan advances an impossible condition: as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on September 30 his country would stop combat operation only after Armenia unconditionally withdraws from Nagorno-Karabakh. "So, the Azerbaijani side is not demonstrating any readiness," Lukyanov noted.

The Armenian side, however, expressed its readiness to begin OSCE Minsk Group-mediated talks. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani side and Turkey, which backs it, slammed the call of the Russian, US and French presidents, as the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair nations, for cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, shortly before this statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was inadmissible that the Minsk Group insisted on a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh "when it must demand Armenia withdraw from the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh"

"So far, the Azerbaijani side seems to believe that it can attain its goals by military means. Talks will begin only when they see that they won’t be able to achieve anything by military means," Lukyanov stressed.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Yevseyev, head of the Caucasus department of the Institute of the CIS Countries, a thinktank, noted that the statement of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs came when it was advantageous for Armenia because the current situation is a failure for the Azerbaijani president. "Azerbaijan has attained neither of its goals. That is why, it is not ruled out that it will try to tilt the balance at the frontline. But I cannot say how," he said, adding that the sides have not yet used some types of weapons.

"I am afraid that Azerbaijan may begin to use them to move the frontline and it will entail Armenia’s response and Armenia has not only Iskander but also other types of missile systems," Yevseyev noted.

Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh

Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27, with intense battles raging in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The area experienced flare-ups of violence in the summer of 2014, in April 2016 and this past July. Azerbaijan and Armenia have imposed martial law and launched mobilization efforts. Both parties to the conflict have reported casualties, among them civilians.

On October 1, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Donald Trump of the United States and Emmanuel Macron of France, as the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair nations issued a statement on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. The leaders resolutely condemned the current escalation along the contact line in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and called for immediate cessation of hostilities.

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the highland region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them. Talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been ongoing since 1992 under the OSCE Minsk Group, led by its three co-chairs - Russia, France and the United States.