There was widespread disappointment in the international community last week, when Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev failed to turn up in Granada, Spain for a planned meeting with the Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, which was to be facilitated by senior European leaders.
Azerbaijan cited "French bias" in favour of Armenia, and a failure to agree to include Turkey as one of the co-hosts of the talks as the reason for the president's absence. It seems however that there is hope that talks can be brought back on track, since both Armenia and Azerbaijan appear now to have agreed to attend talks in Brussels hosted by European Council president , Charles Michel, before the end of the month.
Speaking in Granada on Thursday (5 October), after meeting with the Armenian prime minister, Charles Michel said
"We just had a good meeting with Prime Minister Pashinyan, together with Chancellor Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron. We issued a clear joint communiqué. We believe in diplomacy, we believe in political dialogue, and that is why I will invite both leaders – Prime Minister Pashinyan and President Aliyev – to a meeting in Brussels by the end of October.
I think three principles are extremely important. First, the mutual recognition of the territorial sovereignty and integrity of both Azerbaijan and Armenia, including taking into account the square kilometres. The second important principle is the idea that the delimitation of the borders should be based – must be based – on the Almaty declaration. And the third important principle is related to connectivity. The development of connectivity is of the utmost importance, but it must be based on the principles of sovereignty, jurisdiction and reciprocity.
Finally, I would like to share with you that we are determined to play a positive role – a constructive role – in the normalisation process, and that is why several elements are important: the peace treaty, the delimitation of the borders, connectivity, the exchange of prisoners, the question of missing persons, and demining.
You can see that we are determined to play a role to support a stable and prosperous Caucasus. We do not have any hidden agenda, and that is why we think that we can be an effective interlocutor to support efforts towards more stability, more prosperity and more security.
And it shows that this unique political platform, this intergovernmental and leaders' platform, is relevant. It is relevant because in addition to the plenary session, in addition to the round tables, which allow for a sincere and direct exchange of views on fundamental challenges that we are facing together on the European continent, there is the possibility to have many informal bilateral conversations at the level of the leaders. This is what we did here, and this is useful because it is helpful to prepare the next steps. And the next steps will be – for Azerbaijan and Armenia – that meeting that is supposed to take place by the end of October. "
Michel on Saturday (7 October) spoke on the phone with the Aliyev.
In the Azerbaijani readout, reported by the local media, Aliyev noted that including Azerbaijan in the quadrilateral statement without the participation of Azerbaijan in Granada was not the right approach. President Ilham Aliyev also said that due to the well-known position of France, Azerbaijan did not participate in the meeting in Granada. He emphasized that the provision of weapons by France to Armenia was an approach that was not serving peace, but one intended to inflate a new conflict, and if any new conflict occurs in the region, France would be responsible for causing it.
The President of Azerbaijan pointed out that the anti-Azerbaijani statement adopted by the European Parliament on the basis of a xenophobic and chauvinistic approach and the opinions expressed in it were unacceptable, adding that this did not serve peace and stability in the region.
President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan had fully restored its sovereignty by using the right of self-defense in accordance with international law and the UN Charter, and neutralized illegal military units existing in its territory. In this regard, the steps taken by Azerbaijan were in full accordance with international law. He added that, on the contrary, the states that did not understand the essence of this issue had serious problems with international law due to their policies in different regions of the world.
President Ilham Aliyev said the central government had provided humanitarian assistance to the Armenian residents of Karabakh and the process of their registration had started. The President of Azerbaijan stressed that it was the so-called regime that had forced Armenians to leave the territory.
President Ilham Aliyev said that eight villages of Azerbaijan were still under Armenian occupation, and stressed the importance of liberating these villages from occupation.
Aliyev noted that work was being carried out towards the creation of a regional transport corridor between Azerbaijan and Iran, and that a groundbreaking ceremony had been held for the construction of a bridge and border and customs infrastructure, as well as shore fortification projects in the area near Aghband settlement of the Zangilan district.
It was not clear from the Azerbaijani read-out if Aliyev had confirmed his attendance at the meeting in Brussels at the end of the month but senior Azerbaijani officials have indicated that he is expected to attend.