YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Thursday refrained from publicizing Armenia’s position on international mediators’ recently modified plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He also denied that Azerbaijan has largely accepted the proposed peace deal.
The U.S, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group submitted what they call an “updated version” of the so-called Madrid Document to the conflicting parties in December and January. The Armenian government reportedly responded to it in writing last month.
Nalbandian discussed the matter with the mediators in Paris on Tuesday. He seemed to downplay the significance of the still unpublicized changes made by them in the document during a news conference in Yerevan.
Asked whether those changes are acceptable to the Armenian side, he said: “We have long said that we accept the Madrid principles as the basis of negotiations and we are continuing negotiations on the basis of the Madrid principles. The co-chairs have been submitting working proposals, and all of them are being discussed.”
In a joint statement issued late on Wednesday, the co-chairs also declined to specify whether Yerevan has accepted their modified peace proposals. They confirmed that the Paris meeting focused on “the Armenian comments on the co-chairs’ latest formulations of the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“The talks were held in a constructive spirit, and will be continued during the forthcoming travel of the Co-Chairs to Yerevan and Nagorno-Karabakh,” added the statement.
According to Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, the updated Madrid Document is acceptable to Baku “with a number of exceptions.” “Let Armenia declare whether or not it accepts this variant so that we can decide what to do next,” he said on Monday.
Nalbandian dismissed these statements as misleading, saying that the Azerbaijani “exceptions” outweigh provisions acceptable to Baku. “When you look at statements made by them in recent days you see that there are more exceptions than things which they accept,” he said. “There are a dozen exceptions and one or two issues relating to consequences of the conflict which they accept.”
The top Armenian diplomat went on to again accuse Baku of seeking to “distort the essence of the negotiating process.” He described Baku’s statements about the framework peace plan as “just a smoke screen.”
“Azerbaijan has not been recognizing the Madrid Principles for a long time and if at last Baku has decided to take the documents as a basis for negotiations we can only welcome this fact,” Nalbandian said.
Meanwhile, Mammadyarov on Thursday rejected the idea of holding a referendum on self-determination in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is reportedly a key element of the peace formula favored by the mediators. “Under the Azerbaijani constitution, when it comes to the country’s territorial integrity, a referendum should be held in the entire territory of the republic and all of its citizens should take part in the vote,” he said, according to Regnum news agency.