Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev said on Friday he would not meet the prime minister of archenemy Armenia next month, as planned in Brussels, because Yerevan demanded French leader Emmanuel Macron mediate.
Azerbaijan accuses France of supporting Armenia in the decades-long conflict between the two countries over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev said he would not meet Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Brussels on December 7 because the Armenian leader demanded Macron attend the talks.
Pashinyan “only agreed to the meeting on the condition” that Macron participate, Aliyev told an international conference in Baku. “That means the meeting is off.”
He accused Pashinyan of “thwarting 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 United States have taken a leading role in mediating peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed on Friday that Moscow “continues to facilitate” talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
The six-week war in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
The two countries recently started working on a peace treaty brokered by the European Union and the United States.
Last month, Aliyev denounced a comment by Macron as “unacceptable and biased” that “Azerbaijan unleashed a terrible war, with many deaths and (and) horrific scenes.”
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said at the time that Baku was “forced to reconsider France’s role in mediating” the peace talks.
Macron also accused Russia of being “destabilizing” and “creating disorder” in the Caucasus, which Russian President Vladimir Putin said was “unacceptable”.
Last month, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, criticized EU and US attempts to “interfere with our work”. The Kremlin sees the Caucasus as its sphere of influence.
Aliyev and Pashinyan met several times this year in Brussels and Russia’s southern 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 oversee the fragile ceasefire.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed about 30,000 lives.