Azerbaijan and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continue to work at finding a peaceful solution to end the decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenia.
On Wednesday, the OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku.
“In meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, we agreed to strengthen OSCE co-operation with Azerbaijan and identified a number of promising areas,” Greminger wrote on Twitter following their meeting.
Since 1994 the OSCE has worked to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict, which came to a head after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Armenia kicked off a military campaign against Azerbaijan in 1991 to occupy Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region, where ethnic Armenians had been living alongside indigenous Azerbaijanis.
The war between the two countries resulted in more than 20,000 Azerbaijanis killed and one million being displaced. Twenty percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, namely the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts – Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Qubadli, and Zangilan – were occupied by Armenia, and remain under occupation to this day.
The OSCE’s Minsk Group is the body charged with bringing the conflict to a close, and is co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France. Despite the group’s efforts, no solution to the conflict has been found.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s made remarks in Moscow during his visit on September 8 saying that Baku must be open to negotiating with a self-created government in Khankendi – the central city of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, despite it not being recognized internationally and never considered by officials in Baku as being legitimate.
In his remarks on Wednesday following his meeting with the OSCE chief, President Aliyev called Pashinyan’s demand unacceptable.
“This demonstrates that the Armenian leadership wants to break off the negotiations,” President Aliyev said, according to statements posted to the president’s official website. “Azerbaijan resolutely refutes the statements alleging that the occupied Azerbaijani districts are part of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" and urges the OSCE to react to these dangerous statements,” he said, adding that the Armenian side, and especially Pashinyan, are fully responsible for any breakdown in the negotiation process.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that Pashinyan’s demands for further peace talks are bogus, lacking both a legal and moral basis. Azerbaijan’s leadership considers the Armenian community residing in Nagorno-Karabakh region to be citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan and an integral part of the country’s multi-ethnic identity.
Pashinyan has, in media interviews, referred to the so-called “constitution of Nagorno-Karabakh” that states the occupied areas of Azerbaijan “are part of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.” He has called for the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” (NKR) to become “a full-fledged part of the Armenian territory” at some point in the future.
“By such statements, the Armenian leader actually makes the negotiation process unnecessary,” Elkhan Aleskerov, head of the Expert Council of Baku Network International Policy and Security Center, told the digital outlet Oxu.az. “He refers to the ‘constitution’ of the so-called ‘NKR’ that they themselves [Armenia] do not recognize, however, offers other countries to recognize this as a fact.”
“A series of contradictory statements by Pashinyan on Karabakh testifies that the current authorities of Armenia do not have any concept on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict,” Aleskerov said. “This is the worst option for the Azerbaijani and Armenian peoples since Pashinyan's inarticulate, unprofessional policy is a direct path to war.”