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Azerbaijan Insists On 'Self-Rule' For Karabakh

YEREVAN -- Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov says Baku insists on restoring control over Nagorno-Karabakh despite accepting the right to self-determination as a core principle for resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute over the territory, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Mammadyarov said today in a speech at a Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference in Athens that "Providing self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan will be a just and durable solution, and it can dramatically reduce tensions and challenges for peace and stability in the region."

The remark highlighted the conflicting parties' differing public interpretations of the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the U.S., Russian, and French cochairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The proposed agreement calls for the liberation of Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh and a future referendum of self-determination in the Armenian-controlled territory.

An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman said last month that the principle of self-determination does not call into question Azerbaijan's sovereignty over Karabakh.

The region's predominantly Armenian population could only determine the extent of its self-rule within Azerbaijan, he said. Armenian officials insist, however, the Karabakh Armenians would be able to vote for independence, reunification with Armenia or return under Azerbaijani rule in the would-be referendum.

In his speech, Mammadyarov also accused Armenia of occupying almost 20 percent of his country's internationally recognized territory, displacing hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis, and destroying their cultural heritage.

Speaking at the OSCE forum later in the day, Eduard Nalbandian accused Mammadyarov of seeking to "distort" the essence of the Karabakh dispute and international efforts to resolve it. Still, both ministers noted that the parties have moved closer to reaching a compromise peace accord.