VIENNA (A.W.)—A meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan—Eduard Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov—took place in Vienna on Dec. 6, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.
Minsk Group Co-Chairs Igor Popov (Russia), Stephane Visconti (France), and Andrew Schofer (U.S.), as well as Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk, also participated in the meeting.
According to Nalbandian’s office, the meeting started with participation of the co-chairs and Kasprzyk, then continued in a “tête-à-tête” format. The foreign ministers last met on Oct. 16 along with their respective presidents, Serge Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, in Geneva.
The meeting focused on the ways of implementing the agreements reached between the leaders of the two countries during the Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Geneva Summits. The timetable of the next visit of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to the region was also discussed.
Upon the co-chairs’ proposal, an agreement was reached between the foreign ministers to hold another meeting at the beginning of 2018.
Nalbandian Addresses 24th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council
During his Vienna visit, Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian also participated in the 24th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council.
After commending the work of the OSCE, Nalbandian candidly detailed some of the organization’s shortcomings in his lengthy address to the council.
The foreign minister began by harshly criticized the closure of the OSCE’s Yerevan office. Azerbaijan had vetoed a further extension of the office’s mandate, objecting to a humanitarian demining program implemented by it in Armenia.
Baku’s delegation to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna insisted earlier this year that the program “can strengthen the capacity and skills of relevant Armenian structures” in the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabgh) conflict, and accused Armenia of seeking to “misuse the OSCE Office in Yerevan against legitimate interests of Azerbaijan.”
“The consequences of the closure of the OSCE Office in Yerevan pertain to very essence of the OSCE, which is designed to settle the issues through dialogue and cooperation and never through imposing the position of one participating state at the expense of all others and the entire organization,” Nalbandian said in his address. “It created a very negative precedent.”
According to Nalbandian, the refusal of Azerbaijan to join the consensus on the extension of the mandate of the Yerevan office hurt not only the integrity of the OSCE field missions but also its capacity for what he called “inclusive cooperation.”
“Azerbaijan failed to respect the OSCE commitments and eliminated the OSCE office in its own country before it attacked and closed the last OSCE full-fledged mission in the region. It is particularly deplorable that the office was closed against the will and consistent efforts for its preservation exerted by the host country and all participating states with one exception—Azerbaijan,” Nalbandian added, before saying that Armenia will continue its close cooperation within the OSCE framework, especially through the “Armenia cooperation program.”
Commenting on the Artsakh peace process, Nalbandian harshly criticized Azerbaijan’s rejection of the three OSCE-adopted principles of that conflict-resolution process: nonuse of force or threat of force; territorial integrity; and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples.
“Azerbaijan adopted a selective approach towards the elements proposed by the co-chairs, who have continuously warned against such practice, since they conceive their proposals as an indivisible whole, and made it clear that any attempt to select some principles and elements over others would make it impossible to achieve a solution,” Nalbandian noted.
The foreign minister went on to point out that Azerbaijan does not comply with the reached agreements, and backtracks from them, pointing to the summits in St. Petersburg (June 2010), Astrakhan (Oct. 2010), Sochi (March 2011), and Kazan (June 2011). “The pattern of refusal by Azerbaijan to honor prior agreements seriously questions Baku’s credibility as a negotiating party,” he added.
Nalbandian then slammed Baku’s use or threat of force against Armenian civilians and military, including its continuous breaches of the ceasefire regime and provocations and unannounced military exercises, which is a violation of the OSCE Vienna document. “Bellicose statements of the high-ranking officials of Azerbaijan demonstrate that Baku considers war as a viable option,” Nalbandian added.
Nalbandian went on to criticize Azerbaijan’s refusal to implement what had been agreed to by the two nations at the summits in Vienna and St. Petersburg, which addressed the consequences of the April 2016 War. He particularly noted Azerbaijan’s rejection of implementing mechanisms for the investigation of ceasefire violations and expanding the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office with the aim to increase efficiency of the monitoring capacities on the ground.
“The reported goal of these agreements was to create conditions for the advancement of the peace process; thus, by rejecting them, Baku intentionally hinders the negotiations,” Nalbandian said.
The foreign minister then focused on Azerbaijan’s practice of hate speech against Armenians—both in and out of Armenia. “[Azerbaijan] calls all Armenians of the world its enemy number one; it writes in textbooks that Armenians are genetic enemies of Azerbaijan; it erases all traces of indigenous Armenian cultural heritage and religious sites; it claims that allegedly territories of Armenia are ancient Azerbaijani lands,” Nalbandian detailed.
During his address, Nalbandian also criticized the Azerbaijani government’s infamous “blacklist” of foreigners who have visited Artsakh without Baku’s permission. “Azerbaijan has long blacklisted the people of Nagorno-Karabagh, and then it started to put in the blacklist all those who visit Nagorno-Karabagh. Those who genuinely aspire for peace do not do such actions,” Nalbandian said.
Nalbandian criticized Azerbaijan’s government on several other fronts, including its secret slush fund of $2.9 billion, referred to as the “Azerbaijani Laundromat”; Baku’s spending of billions of dollars to buy influence around the world; and its ongoing accumulation of advanced weaponry and ongoing militarization.
Nalbandian concluded his address by noting that next year the people of Artsakh will mark 30 years of their struggle for what he called the “right to choose their destiny, for human dignity, and freedom.”
“In three decades people of Artsakh, despite the devastating war and all difficulties, succeeded to create a society based on the respect of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic institutions. The settlement of the conflict should respect all inherent rights of the people of Artsakh and should ensure their unhindered implementation,” he said.