President Ilham Aliyev: Sides are in a crucial stage of negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

President Ilham Aliyev: Sides are in a crucial stage of negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution

The talks on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been conducted for many years and now we can say the sides are at a crucial stage of the negotiations, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers dedicated to the socio-economic development in the first half of 2011, Azerbaijani President's official website reported.

President Ilham Aliyev branded the statement of the Heads of OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries as `hopeful`.

"This statement is based on Helsinki Final Act and underlines the change in status-quo. In this case, occupied Azerbaijani lands must be freed," he said. "The Helsinki Final Act is indicated as a basis for resolving the conflict. The principles of territorial integrity do not counteract the principles of self-determination of peoples in this document, and conflict resolution within the framework of territorial integrity is described clearly."

According to Aliyev, the second important point is that the OSCE statement and subsequent statements urge to change the existing status quo, and the status quo is unacceptable. "This means that changing the status quo will surely ensure the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from the occupation. Armenia has strived to keep the status quo unchanged over the past 20 years so that no changes occurred in the situation," he stated.

"The third important point is the activity of the Minsk Group co-chairs in relation to this matter," he said. "We see this activity, and the public also knows this. Prior to the Kazan meeting, I had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama. Also, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sent me a message related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Kazan meeting, as you know, was initiated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Following this meting, U.S. Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton turned to me with a message, and then I had a telephone conversation with Mrs. Clinton. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister met with his French counterpart after this meeting and finally, President Medvedev sent his Foreign Minister to Baku to hand me President Medvedev's message. So, just enumeration of these facts indicates that the activity really reached a high ceiling, and we are very pleased and encouraged with this. We hope that this activity will lead to real results. We see that the co-chair countries are taking their utmost so that the basic principles were agreed as soon as possible and thus conditions were created to develop a peace treaty. We also seek this and perhaps, we seek this more than anyone else. Because this is our land, and the Armenian invaders have occupied them for nearly 20 years. That is, Azerbaijan is the most interested party in addressing the conflict," Aliyev stressed.

"At the same time, I would like to once again bring some realities of the last stages of the negotiations to the Azerbaijani public's attention to let know everyone that Azerbaijan has always demonstrated a maximum constructiveness. A new format of the negotiations - Prague process appeared in 2004 and this process, albeit with difficulty, moved forward. There was held an exchange of views on complex issues and some important issues were agreed as a result of the negotiations. The parties were presented the Madrid principles as a continuation of the Prague process. These principles consist of several paragraphs and were very general in nature. Azerbaijan, excluding very few exceptions, generally adopted the principles. Based on these principles the OSCE Minsk Group, all three co-chairs, I want to emphasize this - the U.S., France and Russia have presented the updated Madrid principles to both sides by late 2009. This happened in late 2009. In January 2010 President Medvedev invited the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to Sochi, where we had a trilateral meeting. At that meeting, Azerbaijan unanimously stated that accepts the updated Madrid principles. I would like to reiterate that not we wrote these guidelines. As they say, we did not invent these principles. These were the principles, which were jointly presented by the U.S., France and Russia and on which they worked out for many years. The Armenian side did not adopt these principles, and afterwards, we can say, certain stagnation arose in the negotiations. Since, the next meeting was held after six months, in June 2010 in St. Petersburg," President Aliyev said.

"What is the essence of the updated Madrid principles? I believe no doubts and misunderstandings should be in this issue. I think the time has come when we must openly talk about this. First, the principles stipulate withdrawal of the Armenian occupation forces from the occupied lands, as well as the immediate withdrawal of the Armenian troops from five regions and in five years from the two regions and the return of Azerbaijani citizens to their native lands. These proposals also implied granting a temporary status to Nagorno-Karabakh. The proposals also included operation of the corridor between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. Deployment of the peacekeeping forces was necessary to ensure the safety of both Armenian and Azerbaijani population. In addition, the return of all the victims of the occupation to their former places of residence was to be ensured. Those, if briefly, were the updated principles,"Aliyev said.

Aliyev underscored that the parameters of the corridor that would connect Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia were also part of those principles.

"I believe this option could be adopted. Of course, these are the basic principles. Negotiations should be conducted on their basis and a peace treaty should be prepared as a result of the negotiations. Of course, the Azerbaijani people will make a final decision when the peace treaty is ready. The updated Madrid principles put forward by the co-chair countries to continue the negotiations could be accepted. But, unfortunately, the Armenian side did not accept these principles, rejected them, and after stagnation occurred in the negotiating process until mid-2010. New proposals have been voiced later. Sometimes these proposals even changed the essence of talks and the basic principles of the negations that we had in the past seven years. Therefore, we are facing a new situation. I would like to repeat that Azerbaijan is interested in constructive negotiations. Azerbaijan has demonstrated its will in 2009 and in early 2010. Azerbaijan, once again, showed its commitment to peaceful negotiations and these negotiations must lead to a peace treaty," Aliyev said.

"As for the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh, the principles of 2009 stated that this is an issue of the future, and it can be solved if the parties agree. So, Nagorno-Karabakh cannot have any legal status without Azerbaijan's consent. That is why, I have always stated and would like to repeat now that the separation of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan, granting of independence to Nagorno-Karabakh or its joining to Armenia has never been the subject of negotiations and won't be ever. Neither the Azerbaijani government, nor the Azerbaijani people will accept this," Aliyev stated

"I would like to repeat that the enumeration of all these issues once again shows Azerbaijan's good will to the world and we have always shown a constructive approach to the negotiations," Aliyev said.

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