BAKU (APA)—In what can be considered the most revealing announcement to date on the details of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev over the weekend said that consensus has been reached among the parties to begin the withdrawal from the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Aliyev, who was speaking to the subject in an interview with Russian State Television, also signaled that Karabakh would effectively be cut off from Armenia, adding that these principles have been agreed upon without any discussion on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The point is that we understand the concerns of those living in Nagorno-Karabakh that after the return of all seven occupied regions of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh will again be cut off geographically from Armenia because Nagorno Karabakh never has had links with Armenia,” said Aliyev.
“The proposals which we are discussing today and which we accept and agree on do not include the question of status. If this is brought up again as a precondition for coordination of positions, we will not achieve anything,” added Aliyev. “We certainly do not see any possibility of the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state.”
Aliyev also insisted that Karabakh should revert back to its Soviet status of being an “Autonomous Oblast.”
The Azeri president explained that under that status, the governing structure of Karabakh was a body comprised of an Azeri representative from Shoushi, which he claimed was populated by 90 percent Azeris. In his view, under the peace agreement, Shoushi should be populated again by a majority Azeri population.
“After Azeris return to Shoushi and Nagorno-Karabakh, we will naturally discuss the question of the status in the future. Of course, Nagorno Karabakh should have some kind of status. We understand this. But, we do not see this status outside the sovereign Azeri State. I think that the process of negotiations could be more constructive after the liberation of the occupied territories,” emphasized Aliyev.
“The question is the phased withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh is the first stage. Immediately after the signing of agreements, troops are slated to be withdrawn from five regions,” explained Aliyev adding that the withdrawal of forces from two regions—Kelbajar and Lachin—would take place five years after the initial pull back “given those regions’ geographic position.”
He explained the withdrawal from the liberated territories is reflected in all OSCE Minsk Group proposals and only after the complete withdrawal can there be discussion of a status for Karabakh.
“It may take a year, maybe ten years, maybe 100 years or it will never be possible. Time will tell,” said Aliyev about the time it would take to determine the status of Karabakh.