Azeri President Ilham Aliyev meets Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Armenian, Azeri Leaders Spar Over Karabakh

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MUNICH (Combined Sources) — Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev publicly butted heads over the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after holding fresh talks in Munich on Saturday, February 15.

Aliyev and Pashinyan gave no indications of major progress towards the conflict’s resolution when they spoke during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference.

Pashinyan said that Karabakh had never been part of an independent Azerbaijani state and that its predominantly Armenian population exercised its right to self-determination during the collapse of the Soviet Union. He also called on the international community to “make clear” to Baku that there can be no military solution to the Karabakh conflict

“The international community should first and foremost explain that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan and, secondly, exert pressure on the aggressor,” countered Aliyev.

The public discussion, moderated by a former senior US defense official, followed a brief meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders. No details of those talks were immediately made public.

Aliyev and Pashinyan met in the southern German city two weeks after their foreign ministers concluded two days of negotiations in Geneva held in the presence of US, French and Russian mediators.

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In a joint statement with the mediators, the ministers said the “intensive discussions” focused on “possible next steps to prepare the populations for peace; principles and elements forming the basis of a future settlement; and timing and agenda for advancing the settlement process.” They did not elaborate.

An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the Geneva talks were “the most intensive” in years.

During the panel discussion Pashinyan said: “I would advise President Aliyev not to go so far into history. Because when Armenian King Tigran the Great was negotiating with the Roman military leader Pompeii, there was no state that would be called Azerbaijan in the South Caucasus and in the whole world.

“As for Nagorno-Karabakh as a state, you know I have to say that I disagree with President Aliyev. Because the Caucasus Bureau decided to make Karabakh part of Armenia, and after that decision, which was a completely legal decision, on the personal initiative of Joseph Stalin, that decision was reversed in Moscow. It seemed like a chore, an agreement between Stalin, Lenin and Ataturk. Karabakh has never been part of an independent Azerbaijan state. Karabakh was put into Azerbaijan only in the process of forming the Soviet Union. And when we are talking about territorial integrity, we need to decide which country we are talking about.

“My question is, if Azerbaijan respected the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union as an independent state, how would it respect that territorial integrity if Azerbaijan withdrew from the Soviet Union in the same way that Nagorno Karabakh withdrew from the Soviet Union? You can say that I am now talking about a state that does not exist, that is, the Soviet Union, but the Soviet republic that comprised Nagorno-Karabakh does not exist either. There is no Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, and that is the truth. And just as Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union, so too did Karabakh gain independence from both the Soviet Union and Soviet Azerbaijan.”

Pashinyan also suggested that he and Aliyev come up with a new model for talks.

“Unfortunately, 25 times in 30 years we have been saying the same things, and I am afraid that the international community may be tired of hearing the same thing in some way. And I think we need to put forward new ideas,” he said.

He stressed that a military solution was not one he was willing to consider.

“The international community must clearly and unequivocally emphasize and say it. If anyone thinks otherwise and says that there is a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I think the people of Nagorno-Karabakh would answer that in that case we can say that this conflict is already resolved. But I think we need lasting, lasting peace.”

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