Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told the assembly yesterday that Baku was seeking UN engagement because he said basic UN humanitarian principles were at stake.
Mammadyarov said his government had become alarmed by reports of settlement activities that could threaten the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Azerbaijanis to their homes in districts near Nagorno-Karabakh.
But he also stressed the primacy of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in mediating peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
"We do not attempt to engage the General Assembly into consideration of the conflict resolution issues," Mammadyarov said. "The matter is about the problem, which impedes the process of peace negotiations and, if continued, could lead to a humanitarian disaster."
The foreign minister said his country had gathered credible information about a settlement policy promoted by the Armenian government in Azerbaijani districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. They include Lachin, Kelbadjar, Zangilan, and Jabrail.
Armenia's UN ambassador, Armen Martirosyan, denied any such policy. But he did say that in order to address the charges, Armenia had decided to facilitate a fact-finding team within the OSCE to assess the situation in the territories. That is one of the requests contained in the Azerbaijani resolution.
He said Azerbaijan was trying to decouple the issue of the captured territories from the whole group of issues discussed under the aegis of the OSCE's Minsk Group. A fundamental part of those talks, he said, is the quest for self-determination by the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.
Martirosyan said the territories are serving as a security belt around Nagorno-Karabakh as a response to what he called the "war-mongering rhetoric" of the Azerbaijani leadership.
"The issue of those territories cannot be resolved unless there is a resolution on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and security guarantees are provided," Martirosyan said.
Turkey's UN ambassador spoke in favor of the draft resolution, calling it a "cry out of frustration" by Azerbaijani officials.
But U.S. representative Susan Moore, speaking on behalf of the Minsk Group, said the Minsk process is the best forum for resolving the dispute. She said efforts should be focused on building confidence between the two sides and avoiding divisions in the General Assembly.
"Azerbaijan is raising specific concerns linked to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh," Moore said. "We believe these concerns can be fully addressed in the existing format. As a first step an OSCE fact-finding mission could be considered as a means to address this issue."
The assembly chair said the chamber would continue discussions on the resolution at an unspecified later date.