By Emil Danielyan
Azerbaijan on Monday echoed international mediators’ optimism about the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, with a senior official confirming that the conflicting parties have made significant progress in recent months.
“We are now as close to peace as never before,” Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov told a news conference in Baku, according to the Day.az online service.
Azimov spoke to journalists to voice the Azerbaijani leadership’s apparent satisfaction with the latest visit to the conflict zone by a team of U.S., Russian and French negotiators trying to broker a settlement. Wrapping up the tour in Yerevan on Friday, the mediators announced that a peace deal may be sealed by the end of this year. But they refused to divulge any of its details.
Azimov, who is President Ilham Aliev’s chief Karabakh envoy, also would not say just how the bitter conflict will be resolved, according to reports from Baku. He instead denounced “provocative statements distributed in Armenian media.”
The official apparently referred to what Armenian officials present as details of the future peace accord that were leaked to RFE/RL earlier this month. They claimed that the parties are close to agreeing on a peace formula that will enable the predominantly Armenian population of Karabakh to determine its status at a referendum to be held within 10-15 years. Such a solution would almost certainly keep the disputed region under Armenian control.
Azimov said that such reports could adversely affect the peace process and that “parties should worry about losing what they have achieved.” But it was not clear if he explicitly denied the Armenian claims.