A meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan that was due to take place in late October has been cancelled, according to Armenia’s foreign minister, Ararat Mirzoyan.
The two countries have in recent weeks stated their willingness to sign a treaty to end decades of conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that Azerbaijan recaptured last month, prompting most of its population of about 120,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to Armenia.
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Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev were due to meet with European Council President Charles Michel in late October.
But Mirzoyan told reporters during a news conference in Yerevan on Wednesday that Azerbaijan had pulled out of the meeting.
“You asked who did not find the time. Obviously, it was the president of Azerbaijan,” Mirzoyan said, as cited by the Russian state news agency TASS. “I hope that the problem is really time. Armenia is ready to participate in this meeting.”
EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Toivo Klaar confirmed the cancellation and said the European Union was working to find a new date for a meeting, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
There was no immediate comment from Azerbaijan.
On Monday, Mirzoyan met his Azerbaijani counterpart in Iran for talks, the first meeting between representatives of the two countries since Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive re-established its control over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, also attended the talks in Tehran.
“A historic opportunity is available to all countries in the region. The war in the South Caucasus has ended, and it is time for peace and cooperation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said of the initiative.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the main issue had been resolved ahead of further work on a peace treaty. “Both sides agree that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan, and that was the main issue to be settled,” he said.
Russia regards itself as the security guarantor between Azerbaijan and Armenia – both former Soviet republics – but the demands and distractions of its war in Ukraine have led to a weakening of its influence in the South Caucasus.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said in a statement posted on the X social media platform that Ankara welcomed Monday’s talks in Tehran and hoped they would “give impetus to normalisation and peace processes”.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but had been controlled by separatist ethnic Armenian authorities after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s and in 2020, but this year, after Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive, Baku took total control of the region. Until a few months ago, its population was majority ethnic Armenian.
Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh prompted the exodus of most of the region’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians. Yerevan has accused Baku of ethnic cleansing, but Azerbaijan said the Armenians left of their own accord and were welcome to return.
Some Armenians have expressed fears that Azerbaijan could expand its ambitions to include Armenian territory, such as a strip of land that separates Azerbaijan from its exclave of Nakhichevan.
Aliyev has previously called such a connection, referred to as the Zangezur Corridor, a “historical necessity” for Azerbaijan and has threatened to establish it by force.
In a recent interview with the news outlet Reuters, Hikmet Hajiyev, a top foreign policy adviser to Iliyev, said that Azerbaijan had “no plans” to seize control of Zangezur.
“After the two sides failed to agree on its opening, the project has lost its attractiveness for us — we can do this with Iran instead,” he said.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies