BAKU (Today’s Zaman)—Azerbaijan has said it may consider opening its borders with Armenia if Yerevan agrees to making major concessions to Baku in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, an Azerbaijani official was quoted by the Turkish Today’s Zaman as saying on Tuesday.
Azeri Foreign Ministry Spokesman Elkhan Polukhov told Today’s Zaman that Azerbaijan may consider opening its borders with Armenia if “a breakthrough” is reached in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Polukhov described that breakthrough as an agreement by Yerevan to return to Azeri control five of the seven liberated Armenian districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh with no conditions. He also added that an agreement is necessary for the return of the strategic regions of Kelbajar and Lachin, connecting the two Armenian republics.
He, however, said it is too early to discuss the mandate and structure of peacekeeping forces that would be required in the territories if they are to be returned to Azeri control.
“It has been said in earlier statements from Azerbaijani officials that Azerbaijan is ready to open borders and restore dialogue with Armenia if the first stage of a plan to resolve the conflict is implemented,” he said.
The Madrid principles governing the Karabakh peace process call for a withdrawal of the liberated territories and their return to Azerbaijan, the return of Azeri refugees to Karabakh, and envision a future referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
According to Polukhov, Azerbaijan will populate the liberated regions with nearly half a million Azeris kept in refugee camps by the state since the outbreak of the Karabakh war.
The remarks follow weeks of political maneuvering by Baku to hinge the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia to a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan.
When these conditions are met, he added, “both railways and highways between the two countries will be operational.”