BAKU (RFE/RL) — Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has again rejected an Armenian proposal on the inclusion of Nagorno-Karabakh as a full party to internationally mediated negotiations for the settlement of the protracted conflict.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated the proposal at a press conference in Yerevan on March 19, insisting that it will not constitute a change of the current format of talks mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, but rather will be the restoration of the format that existed for several years after 1994 when Nagorno-Karabakh was a separate party to the ceasefire agreement that put a halt to active military operations in the region.

Aliyev, meanwhile, again referred to Armenia’s proposal as “a change in the negotiations format,” which he said is unacceptable.

“Azerbaijan cannot agree to that. And envoys of the Minsk Group co-chair countries made a serious statement, saying that the format of the negotiations should remain unchanged. Similar statements were also made by high-ranking EU officials. It is definitely a serious message to Armenia, and it also proves that Azerbaijan’s position is getting more and more support,” Aliyev said on Wednesday.

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan emphasized that his statements on the need for Nagorno-Karabakh’s engagement in the talks was not a “challenge”, but rather “an invitation to dialogue” in which Armenia was ready to listen to Azerbaijan’s counterarguments.

“We will continue discussions on this subject with our partners and will try to continue this discussion in the field of arguments, because negotiations are negotiations only when we listen to each other. At least Armenia has shown its ability to listen to its opponent, try to understand the other side, and we expect the same from them. Where our partners consider that our position can be viewed as excessively tough, we can soften this position, but we would expect the same from our partners, because otherwise no conversation will take place,” the Armenian leader said, in particular.

Meanwhile, at a press briefing in Yerevan today Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalian said that the expected meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders will not be “negotiations around the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement issue proper, but an endeavor to elaborate appropriate interpretations regarding the principles and elements of the settlement process.”

“There are different interpretations of the three principles and six elements included in the document. Azerbaijan interprets them its own way, the Armenian side also makes its own interpretation… Therefore, there is a need for a meeting just to work out an appropriate interpretation for all three principles and six elements, and only then understand how to move forward,” said Naghdalian.

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