Ararat Mirzoyan, left, and Jeyhun Bayramov

Azerbaijan Rules out Guarantees For Karabakh Armenians

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By Heghine Buniatian and Artak Khulian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Azerbaijan has made it clear that it will not agree to any special arrangements for guaranteeing the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population.

In an interview with Reuters news agency published on Friday, June 23, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov also indicated that Armenia should make more concessions in addition to recognizing Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh.

“The most fundamental is the following. this is an internal, sovereign issue,” he said. “The Azerbaijan constitution and a number of international conventions to which Azerbaijan is a party provide all the necessary conditions in order to guarantee the rights of this population.”

Yerevan has been pressing for an “international mechanism” of dialogue between Baku and the Karabakh Armenians during ongoing talks on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday again called for the launch of such a mechanism while continuing to accuse Baku of “ethnic cleansing” in Karabakh.

Pashinyan pledged to recognize Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan after a recent meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held in Brussels. That was condemned by Karabakh’s leadership and the Armenian opposition. They say the restoration of Azerbaijani rule would only force the Karabakh Armenians to flee the territory.

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Bayramov, who is holding another round of negotiations with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Washington this week, noted with satisfaction that Pashinyan is the first Armenian leader to have made such a statement. But, he said, Armenia should also take “some practical steps” to build on progress in the peace talks and make peace with Azerbaijan. He did not specify those steps.

Despite that progress, tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and “the line of contact” around Karabakh have steadily increased over the last few weeks, with the sides accusing each other of violating the ceasefire on a virtually daily basis.

Karabakh’s army said that Azerbaijani forces fired at its frontline positions throughout Thursday, wounding one of its soldiers. It also accused them of targeting the tractor of a Karabakh farmer who cultivated agricultural land outside the town of Chartar.

The Karabakh police said separately that Azerbaijani troops opened fire at a civilian house in another village and damaged its roof on Thursday.

The Azerbaijani military regularly claims to shoot at tractors to stop Karabakh Armenian forces from fortifying their positions. The authorities in Stepanakert dismiss this as a smokescreen for justifying systematic Azerbaijani gunfire at Karabakh farmers.

Following a June 15 shooting incident in the Lachin corridor, Azerbaijan completely halted relief supplies to Karabakh through the sole road connecting the disputed region to Armenia. Karabakh had received limited amounts of food, fuel and medicine from Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross since Baku blocked commercial traffic through the corridor last December.

 

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