Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of sending settlers to disputed enclave

Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of sending settlers to disputed enclave

The Associated Press
02/28/05 17:21 EST

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Azerbaijani officials on Monday accused
Armenia of conducting an orchestrated settlement campaign in an
attempt to claim the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and the
surrounding area.

Parviz Shahbazov, a counselor at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Vienna,
said Armenia had illegally sent 23,000 settlers to Nagorno-Karabakh
and adjacent territories, which are under control of ethnic Armenian

Azerbaijanis living in the area fled during the six-year war in the
1990s and now live in camps in the rest of Azerbaijan in “very hard
and difficult conditions,” Shahbazov said.

Armenian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Armenian settlement policy appeared aimed at preventing the return
of those displaced, he said.

“Such steps of Armenia represent a blatant violation of international
humanitarian law and totally contradicts the Geneva conventions,”
Shahbazov told news conference.

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas have been under the control
of ethnic Armenian forces since the mid-1990s. A cease-fire in the
conflict was reached in 1994, but Nagorno-Karabakh’s political status
remains unsettled. Its ethnic Armenian government is not recognized

Shahbazov argued that Armenia’s settlement policy also hindered the
peace process.

The settlements are “goal-oriented, planned, organized and are carried
out with the immediate participation of the government of Armenia,”
Shahbazov said.

Embassy officials showed grainy video clips and satellite images
of the area they said proved that Armenia had sent settlers there,
built them new houses and provided them with cows and other means to
make a living.

“All this has only one purpose: to consolidate the results of
aggression by Armenia against Azerbaijan – the ethnic cleansing
and occupation of the Azerbaijani territories,” said Fariz Rzayev,
an embassy official.

The Vienna-based Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe
in early February ended a fact-finding mission dispatched as part
of efforts to resolve the conflict. The mission investigated, among
other things, whether ethnic Armenians were settling in the area.

The mission’s report was to be released to the so-called Minsk Group
– which includes OSCE member countries involved in trying to resolve
the conflict – on Monday.

Shahbazov said some mission members had made premature statements ahead
of the release of the report that appeared to justify the settlement
of Armenians and diminish the scale of the settlement campaign.

“Such claims do not and cannot excuse the policy of the transfer of
the population,” he said.

OSCE spokesman Richard Murphy refused to comment on the Azerbaijani

The Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers are set to meet
Wednesday in Prague, the Czech Republic, to continue peace talks.