Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said on Friday he would not meet arch-enemy Armenia’s prime minister as planned in Brussels next month as Yerevan demanded French leader Emmanuel Macron mediate.
Azerbaijan accuses France of supporting Armenia in the two countries’ decades-long conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev said he would not meet with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels on December 7 because the Armenian leader demanded that Macron attend the talks.
Pashinyan “agreed to the meeting only on the condition” that Macron attends, Aliyev said at an international conference in Baku. “That means the meeting will not take place.”
He accused Pashinyan of trying to “spoil the peace talks”.
Last month, Macron and European Council President Charles Michel attended a meeting between Aliyev and Pashinyan in Prague.
On Friday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the meeting in Brussels should have the “same” format.
With Moscow increasingly isolated on the world stage after its invasion of Ukraine in February, the EU and the US have taken a leading role in brokering peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Moscow “continues its work to facilitate” talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The six-week war in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 soldiers on both sides and ended with a ceasefire brokered by Russia.
The two countries have recently begun working on a peace agreement brokered by the European Union and the United States.
Last month, Aliyev condemned as “unacceptable and biased” a comment by Macron that “Azerbaijan started a terrible war, with many deaths, (and) terrible scenes.”
Azerbaijan’s foreign minister said at the time Baku was “forced to reconsider France’s role in mediating” the peace talks.
Macron also accused Russia of “destabilizing” and “seeking disorder” in the Caucasus, which Russian President Vladimir Putin said was “unacceptable.”
Last month, Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov criticized EU and US attempts to “intrude into our work”. The Kremlin sees the Caucasus region as its sphere of influence.
Aliyev and Pashinyan met several times this year in Brussels and the southern Russian city of Sochi.
Under the Moscow-brokered deal, Armenia ceded parts of territory it had controlled for decades, and Russia deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to monitor the fragile truce.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.