Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev canceled a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on December 7 after saying on Friday that Azerbaijan does not want France to participate in its peace negotiations with Armenia.
Macron had “attacked” and “insulted,” according to Aliyev, Baku, and should not serve as a middleman.
In September, hostilities erupted in the two former Soviet Unions’ long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which is internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan but is mostly governed by ethnic Armenians with support from Yerevan.
Each side accused the other of triggering the latest bout of fighting, in which Armenia said Azerbaijan had seized settlements inside its borders.
A ceasefire was agreed in late September and last month in Prague the two countries agreed to allow a civilian EU mission to be set up on their border.
But speaking on Friday, Aliyev accused Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of trying to undercut the next stage of talks by insisting France must be a broker.
“Macron … attacked Azerbaijan and accused us in what we haven’t done,” Aliyev said, speaking in English at a conference with international representatives in Baku.
He said the French leader had adopted an “anti-Azerbaijan position” and was “insulting” Baku.
“It is clear that under these circumstances, with this attitude, France cannot be part of the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
Armenia’s foreign ministry said it wanted to maintain the “Prague format” of discussions, which involved Macron and Michel.
A spokesperson said Azerbaijan’s assertion that Yerevan was trying to disrupt peace talks “has nothing to do with reality,” the Interfax news agency reported.
Macron has accused Russia of stoking tensions between Baku and Yerevan, and has also affirmed his support for Armenia’s sovereignty in phone calls with Pashinyan.
At a meeting between their foreign ministers in Washington at the beginning of November, Armenia offered its most recent peace offering, which Azerbaijan has yet to respond to.
In order to maintain a ceasefire after a six-week battle, Moscow sent 5,000 peacekeepers to the area in 2020. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Moscow was prepared to help broker additional deals, but that there was no specific plan for the leaders to meet in Moscow.
Although it is officially an ally of Armenia, Russia also wants to keep good relations with Baku and has resisted requests to send troops to Yerevan in accordance with a mutual defense agreement since violence started in September.