Armenia, Azerbaijan blame each other for Karabakh failure

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 25, 2011 11:13 AM
Armenia, Azerbaijan blame each other for Karabakh failure

By Hasmik Mkrtchyan and Lada Yevgrashina

YEREVAN/BAKU (Reuters) - Armenia and Azerbaijan blamed each other on Saturday for failing to reach an agreement on a framework document that would set the stage for an end to their two decade-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's Serzh Sarksyan held talks on Friday in the Russian city of Kazan, 720 km (450 miles) east of Moscow, on Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenian-backed forces wrested from Azeri control in the deadliest war to break out during the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.

"The Kazan summit did not achieve a breakthrough because Azerbaijan was not ready to accept the last version of the Basic Principles," Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement.

The two sides were under pressure from global powers to agree the Basic Principles, a 14-point framework document that would set the stage for talks on a peace settlement.

The document would set guidelines on how to determine the final status of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which has run its own affairs with Armenia's support since the war. It would also cover the return of several territories surrounding the enclave, which also form a corridor to Armenia, to Azeri control.

Other points include the right of refugees from both sides to return; an interim status providing security and self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh; and international security guarantees to keep the fragile deal from falling apart.

Baku was quick to respond to Yerevan's allegations that the Azeri side was responsible for the failure.

"Armenia's foreign ministry statement showed once again that the Armenian leadership had no intention of abandoning methods of dirty propaganda," Novruz Mamedov, head of the presidential administration's foreign relations department, told reporters.

"The unconstructive position of the Armenian side is to be blamed for absence of serious progress," he said.

At the same time, both sides pledged to continue talks.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Saturday called on both sides to continue peace efforts and pledged its support for the process.

Azeri and Armenian leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that the sides had reached "a mutual understanding on a range of issues whose resolution will help create conditions for an approval of the Basic Principles."

A 1994 ceasefire halted the conflict that killed about 30,000 people and drove up to a million from their homes. But gunfire and landmines frequently kill soldiers on both sides.

After years struggling to shepherd the rivals toward a resolution, the United States, Russia and France -- which lead mediation efforts -- are pushing for a serious step forward.

The dispute also scuttled a rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey last year. Azerbaijan has said it could reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh by force if the status quo persists.

(Additional reporting and writing by Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi; editing by Jessica Bachman and Alistair Lyon)