(Reuters) -Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev called on Friday for negotiations to take place soon on a peace treaty with Armenia, but said Yerevan would need to renounce any territorial claim against his country, the Interfax news agency reported.
Aliyev said the two former Soviet republics, which fought their last major war in 2020, could reach an agreement quickly if Armenia accepted the principles his country had set forward.
“Armenia must officially recognise the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, as well as the fact that it does not have any territorial claims against Azerbaijan, and will not have any in the future either,” he was quoted as saying.
Otherwise, “we will not recognise the territorial integrity of Armenia, we will announce it officially,” he said.
Speaking to Armenia’s parliament after Aliyev’s comments, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he would not sign any peace deal with Azerbaijan without consulting ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.
At least 6,500 people were killed in a six-week war in 2020, the latest flare-up of a conflict dating back to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It ended when Russia intervened and sent peacekeepers to the flashpoint region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies inside Azerbaijan but was home to an estimated 150,000 Armenians before the latest round of fighting.
RIA news agency quoted Pashinyan as saying: “I rule out that I would come close to signing a document that would not have undergone extensive public discussion, including with all the layers of society in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“This is a cast-iron guarantee that the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be decided behind the backs of the people.”
Azerbaijan is in a strong negotiating position after emerging as the decisive victor, recapturing territory it had lost between 1991 and 1994. But many questions remain unresolved, including over the demarcation of borders.
The despatch of almost 2,000 peacekeepers reaffirmed Moscow’s role as policeman and chief power broker in a volatile part of the former Soviet Union where Turkey also wields increasing influence thanks to its close alliance with Azerbaijan.
(Reporting by ReutersWriting by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry)