(AP) – President Ilham Aliev emphasized Saturday that Azerbaijan is not ready for any compromise with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that land held by ethnic Armenian forces is occupied Azerbaijani territory and cannot be the subject of bargaining.
Aliev said Azerbaijan will not change its position on the enclave, which has been in ethnic Armenian hands since a 1994 cease-fire ended a six-year war that killed some 30,000 people and drove a million from their homes.
“There can be no talk of mutual compromises. That was a mistaken thesis,” Aliev told journalists, apparently referring to statements by international mediators who have said compromise is necessary to settle the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijani officials fear that a settlement plan could call on their country to cede territory. In addition to Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic Armenian forces hold a swath of Azerbaijani territory outside the enclave.
Aliev said Azerbaijan is not willing to cede territory he called occupied. “The only thing we can do” is discuss security guarantees for ethnic Armenians who would be allowed to live in Nagorno-Karabakh if it were placed under Azerbaijani control, he said.
No settlement has been reached over Nagorno-Karabakh and tension remains high, keeping the threat of a new war alive. Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian government is not recognized internationally.
Aliev said he would not oppose a new meeting with Armenian President Robert Kocharian to discuss the dispute, but said that the countries’ foreign ministers would have to make progress toward a potential solution before a meeting can be held. Progress is contingent on Armenia taking a “constructive position,” he said.