The return of refugees—the return of Armenians to Azerbaijan and the return of Azerbaijanis to Artsakh—can only be like a mirror, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Foreign Minister David Babayan told a press conference Wednesday.
Babayan—who himself has participated in the Karabakh peace process ever since 1998 in various capacities, from an employee of the Artsakh foreign ministry to the foreign minister—said that, in fact, there are two matters on the table: the status of Artsakh and its borders, plus some humanitarian issues, and the return of refugees.
"Stepanakert's approach [on these matters] has hardly changed. At first, we were saying that the subordination of Artsakh to Azerbaijan is ruled out, regardless of what status," the FM said, reminding that Azerbaijan itself had rejected the proposed concept of a "common state" where Artsakh would be equal to Azerbaijan in status.
"The red line for us is to be part of Azerbaijan. It will not happen. Otherwise, Artsakh will not exist. The issue must be settled in a package form: All matters are resolved at once.
Azerbaijan was proposing the phased one. But their phased [settlement] was different even from some elements of our phased settlement. They were talking about the regions as a first step, whereas we were saying: let's start with the recognition of our independence.
As for the issue of refugees, the perception has not changed here either. We have never refused to discuss this issue. But there is no word about that without solving political issues. The issues of [Artsakh’s] status and borders must be settled first.
If the refugees return, do they [i.e., Azerbaijan] recognize the Artsakh Republic? And the return can only be like a mirror. Armenians return to [Azerbaijan’s] Baku, Sumgait, Kirovabad [i.e., today’s Ganja]. Otherwise, we cannot discuss [it] unilaterally.
But Azerbaijan does not want the Armenian refugees to return [to Azerbaijan]. And the Azerbaijani authorities want the return of Azerbaijani refugees not because they care about people's feelings, but so that they attempt to absorb Artsakh demographically," said David Babayan.