Azerbaijan has insisted on an explanation for a planned European Union visit to the conflicted region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The suggested visit from EU special representative for South Caucasus, Philippe Lefort , sparked a demand from the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Araz Azimov, on the precise nature and purpose of the trip.
“Nagorno-Karabakh is under occupation and one can visit these areas only after obtaining Azerbaijan’s permission. Azerbaijan is not against OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen’s visit to these areas, as it is their job. Regarding the intentions of various political forces to visit these areas for some political reasons we do not in principle give them permission as there is no reason for this. As for Lefort’s visit to Nagorno-Karabakh, one must think about the purpose of the trip.”
Phillipe Lefort recently spoke at a meeting with with the chairman of the Azerbaijan community of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bayram Safarov, and chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Organization Orkhan Akbarov, about the EU’s stance on the issue, saying:
“We are confident that in the near future, the conflict will be resolved within the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which is consistent with the principles of international law.”
The OSCE Minsk Group is an EU-led effort ‘to find a political solution to the conflict in and around Nagorno-Karabakh involving Armenia and Azerbaijan’. The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988, when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and other surrounding provinces. A ceasefire agreement was signed in 1994, but Armenia has yet to fully implement the UN’s 4 criteria for liberating the region, formulated in 2010. The UN criteria recognizes that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, and call for the immediate withdrawal of occupying forces. However, peace negotiations are still on-going, and tensions continue to flare.
The EU recently signed a visa-liberalization decree with Armenia, following a visit to Yerevan by three EU foreign ministers from Poland, Sweden and Bulgaria. In addition to the visa facilitation talks, the regional conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh, and its settlement process, were also discussed, as the EU expressed concerns over clashes at the frontlines, and reaffirmed that the resolution of this on-going conflict remains a top priority.
Read more about EU efforts to resolve the problem