Azerbaijan repeats open war threat alongside Nagorno-Karabakh talks
Azerbaijan threatens force over Nagorno-Karabakh
(source: Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/8820869)
BAKU, Azerbaijan - President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan said Saturday his nation may resort to military force if talks with Armenia on resolving a long-standing territorial dispute produce no result. Aliyev said he expects to hold talks next week with his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, on resolving the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. "If that meeting fails to produce result, our hopes for negotiations will vanish," Aliyev said during a meeting with Azerbaijani refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The mountainous region is an enclave in Azerbaijan that has been under control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire ended six years of war that killed about 30,000 people and displaced 1 million. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute have failed.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan wants a peaceful settlement, but won't wait indefinitely. "We have the right to free our land using military force," he said. There was no immediate comment from Armenia's government. Aliyev repeatedly has made similar threats in the past. His latest statement could be aimed at encouraging Azerbaijanis, who are concerned that Turkey's move last month to normalize ties with Armenia could ruin hopes for regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has assured its ally Azerbaijan that it would continue supporting it in the dispute.
‘Difficulties' Reported In New Armenian-Azeri Summit
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev met in Munich for their sixth face-to-face encounter this year amid lingering international hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh conflict. They left the four-hour meeting, partly attended by the American, French and Russian mediators, at the French General Consul's residence there without talking to reporters. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group did not announce a breakthrough in the negotiating process during an ensuing news conference and in a joint written statement issued afterwards.
The statement described the talks as "constructive." "In some areas, progress was made," it said. "At the same time, some issues still remain open. The Presidents instructed their foreign ministers to continue working with the Co-Chairs on these matters." "Today we are of the opinion that some important progress has been reached," Bernard Fassier, the French co-chair, told journalists. "But of course at the same time we identified some difficulties." "Today's meeting has been particularly long because very constructive, detailed and in-depth discussions took place between the two presidents on all the basic elements that have yet to be agreed on," he said. "Some of these elements were discussed for the first time in such a detailed and deepened manner."
Fassier and the other co-chairs refused to elaborate on those issues and the "difficulties" hampering the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the Minsk Group. The French diplomat said only that the mediators have "a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months." Their next step will be to arrange a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial conference to be held in Athens on December 1-2, he said.
Aliyev raised the stakes ahead of the Munich talks, saying that their failure to produce results would leave Azerbaijan with no choice but to try to solve the conflict by force. "Azerbaijan is spending billions on buying new weapons, hardware, strengthening its position on the line of contact," Aliyev said in comments broadcast on Saturday. "We have the full right to liberate our land by military means."
The mediators disapproved of the threat. "Our governments in Moscow, Washington and Paris are of the opinion that war is not an option," said Fassier. "We have told the presidents that at this delicate moment of negotiations it's better to refrain from making disproportionate accusations towards each other and especially not to talk about the possibility of a forcible solution to the issue," Yuri Merzlyakov, the Russian mediator, said for his part. Sarkisian condemned Aliyev's remarks through a spokesman on Monday. Samvel Farmanian, the presidential press secretary said they "testify to Azerbaijan's unconstructive stance" in the negotiations.
In a written statement sent to the Armenpress news agency, Farmanian also warned that Yerevan could formally recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state if Baku resumes large-scale hostilities in the conflict zone. "If the peace talks end and hostilities start, nothing will prevent the Republic of Armenia from recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh's independence," he said.