The two leaders were asked identical questions in separate interviews with the Russian state-owned news agency.
Aliyev stated that Azerbaijan ‘will never recognise the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh’.
‘Under no circumstances can the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan be violated, under no circumstances will Azerbaijan agree to the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh’, he stated.
Pashinyan said that the right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh was a ‘red line’ for Armenia.
Asked about compromises Azerbaijan could agree to, Aliyev said that their proposal consisted of the mutual coexistence of the Armenian and the Azerbaijani communities in Nagorno-Karabakh in the future.
‘We are committed to this, but, of course, the consequences of ethnic cleansing must be eliminated and all our internally displaced persons must return to their own homes’, he said.
Pashinyan brought the example of the Kazan initiative as an indicator of the Armenian sides willingness to compromise.
The initiative, led by Russia, included the return of Armenian-occupied lands surrounding the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast to Baku’s control, the right of return for displaced persons, interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh with security and self-governance guarantees, and an agreement to determine the territory’s final legal status at some point in the future.
According to the Kazan initiative, Nagorno-Karabakh would receive a temporary status and negotiations on its permanent status would begin.
Baku refused to sign the agreements in 2011.
Pashinyan also stated that Armenia was ready to take ‘concrete steps’ outlined in the ceasefire agreed in Moscow on 10 October.
‘And we are ready for such compromises, we are ready for compromises proportional to those which Azerbaijan is ready for’, he said.
Aliyev noted that the resolution of the conflict was possible according to basic principles of settlement ‘developed for over ten years’.
‘The liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani regions is planned in a phased plan. At the first stage, this is the southeastern part of the occupied territories — five regions. At the second stage, these are the territories located between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia — Lachin and Kelbajar regions.’
‘Opening of all communications, including communications which are located in other parts of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of origin, which implies the return of Azerbaijani refugees to the territory of Shusha and other areas of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. And negotiations on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which must be agreed by the parties’, he said.
Mercenaries involvement in the war
Pashinyan stated that ‘it was obvious’ that the Azerbaijani army ‘was not capable of fighting against the self-defence army of Nagorno-Karabakh alone’.
According to him, this was the reason Turkey ‘decided to attract terrorists’, to the conflict as well as deploying Turkish special forces.
Pashinyan also claimed there was information suggesting Pakistani special forces were also involved in military operations from Azerbaijan’s side.
He also connected recent counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya and Daghestan with the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that, according to some reports, these militants came to Russia from Syria.
Aliyev denied any involvement of foreign mercenaries on the Azerbaijani side.
‘Azerbaijan has always been a consistent fighter against international terrorism, we will never allow any terrorist organisations to build nests on our territory, all the more so that they pose a threat to our people and our neighbours. We will never allow this’, he said.
Pashinyan also denied any involvement of mercenaries fighting on Nagorno-Karabakh’s side, although he said that ‘there may be some Armenians who came from the diaspora to support their compatriots’.
Turkey’s role and changing of negotiations format
Pashinyan insisted that the escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was beneficial for Turkey, which he said wanted to ‘return to the South Caucasus to continue the policy of the Armenian genocide in the South Caucasus’.
‘And everything that is happening now in the South Caucasus should be considered in the context of the policy that Turkey is pursuing in the Mediterranean Sea, in Libya, in Syria, Iraq, in relation to Greece and Cyprus’.
‘Turkey wants to redistribute the South Caucasus, more precisely, to take control of the entire South Caucasus and make it a springboard for further expansion in the direction of the north, east, and south-east’, he said.
Aliyev stated in an earlier interview with the Turkish channel NTV that Turkey's participation in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh could ‘significantly speed up its end’.
‘It is necessary to take into account the existing realities and the real situation, and they are such that no issue can be resolved in this region without Turkey. The history of recent years has shown this, and some may like it, some may not, but it's true’, Aliyev then said.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that Turkey should be involved in the negotiation process as a mediator.
Replying to RIA Novosti, Aliyev said that since Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, he had attempted to ‘change the format of negotiations, to involve the authorities of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the negotiations’, which was rejected both by Azerbaijan and by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.