Azerbaijan leader turns down meeting with Armenia PM

AFP , Wednesday 4 Oct 2023

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has turned down a European meeting in Spain with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan this week, because of European support for Yerevan, an official told AFP on Wednesday.

Ilham Aliyev
File Photo: Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev attends a news conference in Riga, Latvia, AFP


Pashinyan later said he would still go to the summit of the European Political Community (EPC) in Granada, adding it was a "shame" that the two leaders would not be able to sign a "turning point document" on the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Two weeks ago, Aliyev launched a one-day offensive that saw his country regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the home of pro-Armenian separatists.

The talks were to take place on the sidelines of the European summit, under the mediation of France, Germany, and the European Council.

"Azerbaijan did not consider it necessary to participate in negotiations in this format," an Azerbaijani government official told AFP.

Aliyev would not attend because of "pro-Armenian statements by French officials... and statements on the supply of weapons and ammunition (to Yerevan), on military cooperation", the official told AFP.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said in Yerevan on Tuesday that Paris had agreed to deliver military equipment to Armenia, without elaborating.

The official said Aliyev's decision was also influenced by "accusations made yesterday by EU Council President Charles Michel".

Michel, who has mediated several meetings between the foes in recent years, criticized Baku's use of military force.

The official also cited an "anti-Azerbaijani atmosphere" and said Baku had wanted the meeting to take place in Turkey, its ally, which welcomed the Karabakh offensive.

'Dialogue is essential'

US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel urged dialogue between the two arch-enemies.

"We note that President Aliyev will not participate in the proposed meeting in Granada," Patel told reporters.

"We've consistently been clear, though, that dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan is essential to resolving this longstanding conflict."

The new head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee called for an end to security aid to Azerbaijan.

"As the world continues to grapple with Azerbaijan's coordinated, intentional campaign of ethnic cleansing, we must both prioritise support for the Armenians who have been expelled as well as (hold) Azerbaijan accountable," Senator Ben Cardin said in a statement.

In Yerevan, Pashinyan told parliament on Wednesday that he would still travel to Spain.

"We are going to Granada with a delegation from the foreign ministry and the Security Council," he said.

"We were in a constructive and optimistic mood because we thought that a turning point document could be signed," he said. "Until this morning the likelihood of this was very high."

Pashinyan said he hoped an agreement would be signed "at a good moment".

Most of the Armenian population of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has fled since Azerbaijan's offensive, and the separatist government has agreed to dissolve.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a dispute over the mountainous region since the final days of the Soviet Union, going to war twice: in the 1990s and in 2020.

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