28 September 2009The ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is part of Azerbaijan’s territory but is occupied by Armenian forces, could be settled as long as both sides refrain from taking action that hampers the peace process, Armenia’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today. Edward Nalbandian accused Azerbaijan for misrepresenting the “essence” of the problem, including over the weekend when Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, speaking before the Assembly, tried to “smother ethnic cleansings and its policy of violence against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”In his address, Mr. Mammadyarov said the first steps that need to be taken to end the conflict include the withdrawal of Armenian forces, the rehabilitation of the affected territories, the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes, and the opening of all communications.Mr. Nalbandian told the Assembly’s high-level debate today about what he described as Azerbaijan’s aggression against the region, adding that its hostilities were fuelled by “the held of mercenaries, closely linked to terrorist organizations.”He said that “in order to create an opportunity for progress… [on Nagorno-Karabakh] the parties should commit to refrain from steps that could hamper dialogue and the peace process.”The Joint Declaration signed last November by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia provides a solid foundation for the settlement of the dispute, he stressed.The senior official also underscored the importance of the principle of self-determination, which he characterized as “an unconditional clause of international law; it is about liberty, freedom of any people to choose its future and fate, and to defend its collective rights whenever those rights and that future are jeopardized.”Last year the General Assembly adopted a resolution on Nagorno-Karabakh calling for the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces from “all the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” The text reaffirmed “the inalienable right of the population expelled from the occupied territories” to return to their homes, and to achieve that it called for the comprehensive rehabilitation of all conflict-affected territory. No State should recognize as lawful the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, nor provide aid or assistance to maintain that situation, according to the text, which also called for “normal, secure and equal conditions of life for Armenian and Azerbaijani communities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region” so that “an effective democratic system of self-governance” can be built up. In addition, the resolution voiced support for international mediation efforts to the dispute, particularly the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairmen.