YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—The war of words between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated Thursday, with the Armenian Foreign Minister calling statements made by his Azeri counterpart regarding the current phase of the Karabakh peace process “absolute lies.”
Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Thursday alleged that the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Kelbajar and Lachin would be discussed in a possible upcoming meeting with Armenia’s Eduard Nalbandian, claiming that this topic was also discussed during last month’s presidential summit in St. Petersburg.
“The Armenian side has never discussed the transfer of Lachin and Kelbajar to Azeri administrative control,” said Nalbandian, stressing that the matter was also not discussed during last month’s St. Petersburg meeting of presidents Serzh Sarkisian, Ilham Aliyev and Dmitry Medvedev.
Nalbandian traveled to Almaty, Kazakhstan to take part in an informal summit of OSCE member-state foreign ministers. He said at a press briefing Tuesday that a meeting with Mammadyarov might take place on the sidelines of the OSCE summit.
During his press briefing Thursday in Baku, Mammadyarov not only reiterated the claim that the aforementioned topic was to be discussed but announced Baku’s “acceptance” of a five-year timeframe for the Kelbajar and Lachin transfer.
“The updated Madrid principles envision the return of Kelbajar and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan within five years. This was proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs,” said Mammadyarov referring to the principles that have served as guidelines for the Karabakh talks.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Nalbandian insisted that the so-called Madrid principles were effectively dead and that during the St. Petersburg meeting, Medvedev presented a new set of principles which heretofore will guide the peace talks.
Armenia’s deputy foreign minister, Shavarsh Kocharyan, on Friday said “the withdrawal of Karabakh forces from any territory will be out of question until Azerbaijan agrees to accept Karabakh’s status in accordance with the results of an expression of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s will, and expresses readiness to withdraw its armed forces from the occupied regions of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic,” a clear reference to the Shahumian, Getashen and Martunashen districts of Karabakh, whose Armenian population was forcibly deported and massacred by Azeri forces.