By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said his country is willing to “instantly” begin peace talks with Armenian leaders “here in Georgia” if Yerevan agrees to negotiations following Baku’s victory last month over ethnic-Armenian separatists in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“We need Georgia’s involvement in this situation,” Aliyev said following meetings with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in Tbilisi on October 8.
“We expect the same from Armenia. And if it agrees, we will start [talks] instantly, with the involvement of the relevant agencies, bilateral, and trilateral meetings here in Georgia,” Aliyev added.
Garibashvili stated his readiness to engage Tbilisi in the peace process and said that “we have always held Georgia a neutral, impartial position.”
“We are still committed to our role in establishing this mediation or friendly format. Tbilisi is always ready to take part in this process. All three countries in the South Caucasus should be able to resolve the issues of the region and our further development,” Garibashvili said.
Separately, European Council President Charles Michel has said leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet in Brussels at the end of October for talks.
The remarks come after Aliyev refused to meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for scheduled talks on the sidelines of a European leaders’ summit in Grenada, Spain, on October 5, saying he wanted close ally Turkey to participate in the sessions and complaining of the presence of France, which he claims is biased in favor of Yerevan.
On October 8, Aliyev’s office said in a statement “that due to the well-known position of France, Azerbaijan did not participate in the meeting in Granada.”
Azerbaijan’s lightning military operation last month succeeded in retaking Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been under ethnic-Armenian separatist control for three decades, leading to a mass exodus to Armenia of more than 100,000 residents, nearly all of the region’s population. Most expressed unwillingness to live under Azerbaijani rule.
The European Parliament said the situation with Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijan’s retaking of the breakaway region “amounts to ethnic cleansing.”
In a resolution adopted on October 5, the legislature said it “strongly condemns threats and violence committed by Azerbaijani troops.”
Baku has said its military operation was conducted under international law and pledged to respect the rights of ethnic Armenians, but officials in Yerevan and some international figures expressed fears of ethnic cleansing.
Authorities in Yerevan have also said they are worried that Azerbaijan is planning a full-scale invasion of Armenia.