Arayik Harutyunyan

Karabakh Armenians Again Reject ‘Reintegration’ Talks In Baku

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By Ruzanna Stepanian

STEPANAKERT (Azatutyun) — Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership dismissed on March 28 a fresh Azerbaijani offer to send its representatives to Baku for talks on the Armenian-populated region’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.

It reiterated that Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials should continue to meet at the Karabakh headquarters of Russian peacekeeping forces and discuss, first and foremost, humanitarian issues such as the reopening of the Lachin corridor blocked by Baku for more than three months.

A statement released by the Karabakh Foreign Ministry also insisted on an “internationally recognized negotiation format” for discussing with Baku a broader political settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s office made the offer on March 27 two days after Azerbaijani troops seized a hill overlooking a dirt road that bypasses the blocked section of the Lachin corridor. The authorities in Stepanakert as well as the Russian peacekeepers accused Baku of violating the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 war in Karabakh.

The Karabakh statement said the timing of Aliyev’s latest offer shows that Baku is keen to impose solutions on the Karabakh Armenians, rather than negotiate with them in good faith.

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Arayik Harutyunyan, the Karabakh president, held on Monday an emergency meeting with local officials and political leaders in Stepanakert. Harutyunyan said the Karabakh leaders need to “soberly assess” the worsening security and humanitarian situation and “draw necessary conclusions.” The crisis can still be resolved through “prudent steps,” he said in his publicized remarks.

A senior Karabakh lawmaker, Artur Harutyunyan, said on March 28 that those steps depend on the outcome of the Russian peacekeepers’ continuing negotiations with the Azerbaijani side aimed at ensuring their withdrawal from the occupied hill.

“After the negotiations are over and their results are clear, we will have to decide our next steps,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Azerbaijani and Karabakh officials most recently met at the peacekeepers’ headquarters near Stepanakert on March 1. According to Karabakh’s leadership, they discussed the restoration of “unimpeded” traffic through the Lachin corridor and Armenia’s energy supplies to Karabakh.

An official Azerbaijani readout of the talks said, however, that they focused on the Karabakh Armenians’ “integration into Azerbaijan.”

Harutyunyan insisted afterwards that his representatives refused to engage in such a discussion. He said Baku responded by threatening to take “tougher and more drastic steps.” The Karabakh leader linked that to the March 5 shootout that left three Karabakh police officers and two Azerbaijani soldiers dead.

 

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