Yerevan Rejects Baku’s New Karabakh ‘Road Map’

Foreign Minister Nalbandian with his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has reiterated Yerevan’s position that negotiations with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh should continue around a set of key principles proposed by international mediators in recent years that he implied have not been finalized yet because of Baku’s unconstructive approach.

Nalbandian made the statement at a joint press conference with the visiting Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, on Thursday when responding to a media question on the idea “recently floated” in Azerbaijan concerning a new “roadmap” for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

Such views in Azerbaijan are likely to have followed the latest attempt by international brokers to restart the Armenian-Azerbaijan peace talks that stalled last summer.

The Karabakh negotiation process came to a standstill after a series of deadly border skirmishes and especially in the wake of the controversial pardoning in Azerbaijan of Ramil Safarov, a convicted killer of an Armenian serviceman who was handed over to Baku by Hungary more than two months ago.

Safarov, an officer of the Azerbaijani army who hacked to death a sleeping Armenian fellow student, Gurgen Margaryan, at a NATO-sponsored English language course in Budapest in 2004, was serving a life sentence in a Hungarian prison before his controversial extradition on August 31. The move angered Armenia and was denounced by the world’s leading government, including the United States.

Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov held their first eye-to-eye meeting since June in the French capital of Paris on October 27 in the presence of the U.S., French and Russian co-heads of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, which spearheads international efforts to broker a Karabakh peace deal.

Armenia reported no progress after the meeting. In an interview with the French daily, Le Figaro, given during his official visit to France Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian said this week that the talks in Paris did not bring any new hopes for the future of the process.

“Baku refuses to accept the principles proposed by the international mediators as a basis for negotiations, thinking that they can directly reach a peaceful agreement without agreeing on the basic principles. But the peaceful agreement may be viable only if it is based on clear principles acceptable to everyone,” the Armenian leader emphasized.

After talks with Sarkisian at the Elysee Palace on Monday French President Francois Hollande also emphasized that Paris saw further efforts aimed at finding a solution to the protracted Karabakh dispute proceeding within the framework of the so-called Madrid principles.

Speaking at the press conference in Yerevan today Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian brushed aside the assumptions that a new “roadmap” implying a phased solution could help the process. He said he had the impression that “the authors of this proposal have stuck on the information level typical of the 1990s.”

“Seventeen years have passed since 1995, the train has left the station, but some in Azerbaijan are still standing on the platform,” said the top Armenian diplomat, speaking figuratively about the history of the peace process.

He stressed that a “roadmap” regarding some of the key principles of conflict settlement had already been presented to the sides by the international community.

“But we couldn’t make progress at the Kazan summit as Azerbaijan rejected these proposals,” charged Nalbandian, referring to a set of basic principles that Armenia believes are anchored on the combination of the right of Karabakh Armenians to self-determination, Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and the nonuse of force or threat of force in resolving the conflict.

“I don’t think that the idea of the Azerbaijani side regarding a new roadmap may be serious, especially when the matter concerns a roadmap that emerged 17 years ago,” Nalbandian said.

The Armenian foreign minister also referred to the statements issued by the leaders of the Minsk Group co-chair countries from the recent G8 and G20 summits urging the parties to the conflict to make progress towards agreeing on the basic principles of Karabakh peace.

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