Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has confirmed his attendance in European Union-hosted talks in Spain despite reports that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has decided that he will not attend the same event.
The statement on Wednesday came one day before the planned talks in Granada, where a meeting between the leaders of the historic rivals was meant to take place. The leaders of France, Germany and the EU Council President Charles Michel were also planned to attend the talks.
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“We have not cancelled the trip. We are going,” Pashinyan told parliament, adding that it was a “shame” that the meeting with Aliyev will not take place.
“We were in a constructive and optimistic mood,” he said. “Because we thought that a turning point document could be signed.”
European leaders hoped the scheduled meeting could help defuse tensions, which have mounted over the last several weeks as Azerbaijan moved to seize the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was controlled until last month by ethnic Armenian separatists. Tens of thousands of Armenians have since fled the region for neighbouring Armenia.
Earlier on Wednesday, the news outlet AFP reported that Aliyev had decided to turn down the summit due to an “anti-Azerbaijani atmosphere”, including pro-Armenian statements by French officials and the possibility of French arms sales to Armenia, citing an Azerbaijani government official. The official also said that “accusations made yesterday by EU Council President Charles Michel” had contributed to Aliyev’s decision.
In a visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that Paris had agreed to deliver military materials to Armenia, without offering further details.
Speaking before the parliament on Wednesday, Colonna said that France had no desire to see the conflict escalate, but defended the arms sales as defensive in nature.
“Azerbaijan has never stopped arming itself to carry out offensive actions,” said Colonna.
Azerbaijan’s state-run APA news agency said that Azerbaijan would not take part in any future talks that include France, but that it is open to potential three-way talks between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the EU. The outlet also reported that Aliyev had wanted Turkey to attend the summit, but was rebuffed by France and Germany.
“Azerbaijan did not consider it necessary to participate in negotiations in this format,” the AFP quotes the Azerbaijani official as saying.