In the past week, both the prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, and the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, have made statements expressing their willingness to meet face to face to discuss the normalisation of relations and taking forward the process of peace between the two countries.
Having already commented on his willingness to meet Pashinyan through the OSCE Minsk Group format last week, Aliyev went a step further in an interview with Spanish news agency EFE on 2 October. Asked if he was ready for dialogue with Pashinyan, the Azerbaijani President replied:
“Dialogue and contacts have begun at the level of deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, and this format is dedicated to issues related to the opening of communications. Recently, on the margins of the UN General Assembly, foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met for the first time since the war ended. And I think it was very constructive and promising.
“Our position remains unchanged since the war ended. We want to establish normal relations with Armenia based on mutual recognition of territorial integrity of both countries. We are ready to start immediately the process of delimitation of our borders and of course after that process is ended, demarcation.
“We also expressed willingness to start to work together with Armenia on a future peace agreement. All these initiatives have been articulated by me and other Azerbaijani officials many times but unfortunately they have not yet been positively responded to by the Armenian side. So our position is unchanged and there are certain steps but I think during this year we would have made much bigger progress.”
On the issue of a potential meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Aliyev said that he is “ready”:
“If the Armenian side is ready I am also ready. We had one meeting that was in trilateral format at the invitation of Russian president Vladimir Putin at the beginning of this year. And I am ready to talk to Mr. Pashinyan anytime when he is ready. So I am open for the discussions and I think that could be also a good indicator that the war is over and that page has been turned.”
However, Aliyev also made it clear that while he was willing to discuss a potential peace agreement, his position on the issue of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh had not changed: “So to put it shortly: no way to go back to status, no status and everybody should forget this issue.”
During an official visit to Lithuania on Sunday (3 October), Pashinyan also affirmed his readiness to meet with Aliyev:
“Look, the President of Azerbaijan announced that he is ready to meet with me. Let me say that I had said back in July that we are ready to meet on both high and highest levels, which means we are ready to meet on the foreign ministerial and prime minister-president levels. In my recent speech at the UN General Assembly I said that the Nagorno Karabakh issue awaits its resolution and I can say that for several times already we have welcomed the statements by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs where for several times they’ve noted the need for resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and restoring the peace process for this goal”.
Pashinyan, addressing maps of landmines in the territories that returned to Azerbaijani control in last year's war, added:
“I am ready to take with me to the presumed upcoming meeting the maps which are talked about, and these maps are the ones which do not separate the militaries of Armenia and Azerbaijan from one another, meaning they don’t have a military practical security significance, they rather have only humanitarian significance because they are located behind Azerbaijani military lines. I am ready to take with me to the meeting all maps we have and I call on the Azerbaijani president to bring with him all captives.”