Azerbaijan is backing a new mediation format led by Georgia to achieve a peace settlement with Armenia, following its conquest of its rebel territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Ilham Aliyev, while visiting Tbilisi with a government delegation, emphasised that Georgia's involvement in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan is the most appropriate choice.
"If [Armenia] agrees, we would immediately start, with the involvement of relevant agencies, bilateral and trilateral meetings here in Georgia", Aliyev said on Sunday, at a briefing together with Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili.
President Aliyev declined a meeting with Armenia's Prime Minister
, Nikol Pashinyan, in Granada, Spain, last week where negotiations involving France, Germany, and the European Council were scheduled for October 5. Aliyev apparently took the move because Turkey was refused permission to be involved, while France – which is close to Armenia – was included. Pashinyan instead held the talks alone with the European mediators.
Garibashvili, echoed support for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and reiterated Georgia's readiness to contribute to the mediation or friendly format of the peace process. Gharibashvili emphasised the importance of South Caucasus countries deciding their own regional issues. It is not the first time leaders have touched upon regional exclusivity.
Earlier, Aliyev during his speech on September 20 following the final Azerbaijani military operation
in Karabakh, said that he suggested that "the forces, fraudsters and corrupt politicians who are located far from our region, but pursue their own political agenda and use the Armenian people as a tool, exploit them and sell them, as they say, in a pinch, should give up on us."
"Those who sit at the top of the world and make baseless accusations against us should stop us and let the South Caucasus breathe easy," he said.
While this statement didn't contain any names, it was clearly aimed against France.
In a call with President of the Council of the European Union Charles Michel, Aliyev said that "including Azerbaijan in the quadrilateral statement without the participation of Azerbaijan in Granada was not the right approach."
"Due to the known position of France, Azerbaijan did not participate in the meeting in Granada. The head of state emphasised that the provision of weapons by France to Armenia was an approach that was not serving peace, but one intended to ignite a new conflict, and if any new conflict occurred in the region, France would be responsible for causing it," he added, hinting at France's new decision to provide arms to Armenia.
The leaders also discussed the development of the Middle Corridor, promoting economic connectivity. Azerbaijan's recent military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in the displacement of ethnic Armenians, and ongoing negotiations for a peace treaty were also touched upon.
Michel invited Azerbaijan and Armenia to meet under European mediation in Brussels. There is also an ongoing mediation track led by Moscow, the traditional dominant power in the South Caucasus.