Azerbaijan and Armenia brush off suggestion of peace talks

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An Armenian serviceman fires a cannon towards Azerbaijan positions in the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces accused each other of attacks on their territory Tuesday, as fighting over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh continued for a third straight day following the reigniting of a decades-old conflict. (Sipan Gyulumyan/Armenian Defense Ministry Press Service/PAN Photo via AP)

YEREVAN – Leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia brushed off the suggestion of peace talks Tuesday, accusing each other of obstructing negotiations over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, with dozens killed and injured in three days of heavy fighting.

In the latest incident, Armenia said one of its warplanes was shot down by a fighter jet from Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey, killing the pilot, in what would be a major escalation of the violence. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan denied it.

The international community is calling for talks to end the decades-old conflict between the two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus Mountains region following a flareup of violence this week. It centers on Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian government since 1994 at the end of a separatist war.

The U.N. Security Council called on Armenia and Azerbaijan Tuesday evening to immediately halt the fighting and urgently resume talks without preconditions. The U.N.’s most powerful body strongly condemned the use of force and backed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ earlier call to stop the fighting, deescalate tensions, and resume talks “without delay."

Azerbaijani President Ilkham Aliyev told Russian state TV channel Rossia 1 that Baku is committed to negotiating a resolution but that Armenia is obstructing the process.

“The Armenian prime minister publicly declares that Karabakh is (part of) Armenia, period. In this case, what kind of negotiating process can we talk about?” Aliev said. He added that according to principles brokered by the Minsk group, which was set up in 1992 by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to resolve the conflict, “territories around the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region should be transferred to Azerbaijan.”

Aliev noted that if Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says “that Karabakh is Armenia and that we should negotiate with the so-called puppet regime of Nagorno-Karabakh, (he is) trying to break the format of negotiations that has existed for 20 years.”

Pashinyan, in turn, told the broadcaster that “it is very hard to talk about negotiations ... when specific military operations are underway.” He said there is no military solution to the conflict and called for a compromise.