Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on the fifth day of its annual high-level debate, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan expressed their views on the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Monday that “the people of Nagorno-Karabakh chose long ago not to be represented by the Government of Azerbaijan. They were the victims of state violence, they defended themselves, and succeeded against great odds, only to hear the State cry foul and claim sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Mr. Oskanian said that last December Azerbaijan destroyed or removed thousands of hand-sculpted mediaeval Armenian tombstones.
“Such destruction, in an area with no Armenians, at a distance from Nagorno-Karabakh and any conflict areas, is a callous demonstration that Azerbaijan’s attitude towards tolerance, human values, cultural treasures, cooperation or even peace, has not changed.”
He added that “one cannot blame us for thinking that Azerbaijan is not ready or interested in a negotiated peace.”
Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, told the Assembly that a recent joint environmental operation between the two countries to tackle major fires inside Nagorno-Karabakh has been “the only positive development so far.”
“The occupying forces have to withdraw from the occupied territories and necessary conditions have to be in place to allow secure and dignified return of the Azerbaijani displaced persons to the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding territories of Azerbaijan,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s status can only be defined “through peaceful, democratic and legal process with direct participation and consent of both Azerbaijani and Armenian communities,” he said, adding that the region’s economic development must be strengthened and its inter-communal relations enhanced.
But “it is difficult to hope for a breakthrough in the negotiations when Armenia rejects face-to-face meetings and refuses to take a constructive approach to solve existing problems.”