Azeri president says Armenians can have ‘cultural autonomy’

Ilham Aliyev also said he was not against the introduction of observers and peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.

A worker stands on the back of a truck as he removes debris near a residential building, which was damaged during the military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in Stepanakert [Stringer/Reuters]

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev has said he would not rule out what he termed “cultural autonomy” for ethnic Armenians in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

Aliyev on Thursday also said he was not against introducing observers and peacekeepers to the region, but that Baku would present its own conditions.

But hopes of ending nearly a month of bloodshed were receding as Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces fought new battles, on the eve of talks in Washington.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry on Thursday accused Armenia of firing several ballistic missiles from its territory at the Azerbaijani cities of Gabala, Siyazan and Kurdamir, which are located far from the area of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. It said there were no casualties.

The Armenian military rejected the claim as a “cynical lie”.

Azeri and Armenian foreign ministers are expected to hold talks on Friday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in separate meetings.

With fighting having spilled into a fourth week, international organisations have once again raised calls for the two sides to lay down their arms.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994.

The current fighting that started on September 27 has already killed hundreds, marking the biggest escalation in the conflict since the war’s end, and raising fears of an all-out war that could draw in Turkey and Russia.

Source: News Agencies