Armenia and Azerbaijan have traded fresh accusations over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region just ahead of new peace talks aimed at reaching a long-lasting resolution to the decades-old conflict.
Armenia accused Azerbaijan on Monday of threatening to resort to force after Azeri President Ilham Aliyev demanded the dissolution of Karabakh’s “separatist” local government.
Armenian Foreign Ministry further accused Aliyev of making “genocidal threats” and “preparing the ground for another aggressive action against the population of Nagorno-Karabakh,” according to an official statement cited by the country’s official Armenpress news agency.
The statement came after Aliyev called on Armenians on Sunday to abandon their "illusions" of Karabakh’s independence, while boasting military successes scored by Azerbaijan in the 2020 war to recapture the region after Armenia took it over in 1994.
"That means abiding by the laws of Azerbaijan, becoming normal, loyal citizens, tossing false state symbols onto the rubbish heap and dissolving the so-called parliament," Aliyev further emphasized in remarks made in the town of Lachin.
The verbal blows came as peace talks between the two sides had appeared to be making progress in recent weeks, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressing his country's readiness to recognize Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.
Karabakh has always been internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan though it is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians who have resisted Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the territory since a separatist movement waged a war against Azerbaijan in 1994 and captured it.
Azerbaijan eventually recaptured in 2020 the territory captured by the Armenian separatists shortly after the Soviet rule collapsed in the early 1990s.
Since the six-week 2020 war, which left more than 6,500 people killed on both sides and eventually concluded by a Russian-brokered truce, Pashinyan and Aliyev have held several talks brokered by Moscow and the European Union.
The two men met last week in Moscow, where Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the two sides were making progress towards clinching a long-term peace deal.
The Armenian and Azeri leaders are due to meet again at an EU development meeting in Moldova on Wednesday, when leaders from more than 40 states as well as European institutions are also expected to take part.
Top on the agenda is the Karabakh dispute, along with the demarcation of the two nations’ border, the return of prisoners and the establishment of trade “corridors” running through each other’s territory.