Armenia, Azerbaijan trade insults after talks failure

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Armenia and Azerbaijan on Saturday traded bitter accusations after the failure of a peace summit in Russia aimed at resolving a territorial dispute that world powers fear could re-erupt into war.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev failed to agree terms at Friday's summit on a "basic principles" road map to resolve their dispute over Nagorny Karabakh, despite global pressure.

Armenia's foreign minister said Azerbaijan had torpedoed the talks by wanting a dozen changes to the document, while Baku said that Yerevan was seeking to mislead the world.

The outcome was a major disappointment after hopes had been raised of a long-awaited breakthrough in the talks, which were presided over by President Dmitry Medvedev in the Russian city of Kazan.

"Kazan did not become a turning point because Azerbaijan was not ready to accept the latest version of the basic principles," Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement.

He accused Azerbaijan of undermining the talks by calling for "about 10" changes to the long-discussed document.

However a top Azerbaijani official in Baku insisted Azerbaijan was doing everything it could to ensure a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"The Armenian side is misleading the international community and using the situation around the negotiating process for its own ends," Novruz Mamedov, head of the presidential administration's external affairs department, said.

"We should take steps to help solving the conflict and not interfere in the negotiating process," he told reporters.

"The negotiations are very difficult but we will continue to defend our positions and principles," he added.

"The heads of state noted the reaching of mutual understanding on a number of questions, whose resolution helps create conditions to approve the basic principles," the leaders said in a statement published by the Kremlin.

But there was no mention of a concrete agreement.

In a sign of international hopes of a breakthrough, US President Barack Obama had called the two presidents and urged them to sign the "basic principles" document, the White House said.

Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, current head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had also expressed hopes ahead of the talks.

"Very rarely have we observed moments when our hopes for a final peace settlement have been as high as they are now," said the secretary general of the regional security body.

Seventeen years after fighting a war over the now Armenian separatist-controlled region in western Azerbaijan, the two countries still exchange deadly fire around the Nagorny Karabakh conflict zone.

The conflict in the 1990s killed some 30,000 people, and there are fears that a new flare-up could be even bloodier and potentially threaten pipelines taking Caspian Sea oil and gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

The interim basic principles agreement would see an Armenian withdrawal from areas around Karabakh that were also seized during the post-Soviet war.

It also envisages international security guarantees and a vote on the final status of the territory at some point in the future.

Even if the basic principles are finally agreed, huge obstacles remain to a final peace deal.

While Armenia insists that Karabakh will never return to Baku's control, Azerbaijan insists that the region must remain part of its sovereign territory.


© 2011 AFP

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