Azerbaijan’s Aliyev to skip EU talks with Armenia, angry with France – state media

BAKU (Reuters) -Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has decided against attending an EU-brokered event in Spain where he could have held talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani state media reported on Wednesday.

Aliyev had been considering taking part in a five-way meeting in Granada, Spain, on Thursday with the leaders of France, Germany, Armenia and EU Council President Charles Michel.

The five were due to discuss the future of the Nagorno-Karabakh region after Baku took back full control in a 24-hour military operation launched on Sept. 19, and to review the progress of long-running but troubled peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Azerbaijan’s state-run APA news agency, citing unnamed sources, said Aliyev had decided against attending however. There was no official confirmation that Aliyev would not go.

APA said Aliyev had wanted Turkey to be represented at the meeting, but that France and Germany had objected, and said that Baku felt “an anti-Azerbaijani atmosphere” had developed among the meeting’s potential participants.

In particular, APA cited what it said was discontent in Baku around a statement made by Michel and what it regarded as “pro-Armenian statements” by French officials and France’s decision, announced on Tuesday, to supply Yerevan with military equipment.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna held talks with Armenia’s Pashinyan in Yerevan on Tuesday, the first trip there by a Western government minister since Azerbaijani forces retook Karabakh.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday condemned what it said were unfounded comments by Colonna, who had voiced support for Armenia and its territorial integrity.

APA said that Azerbaijan would not attend any future talks that included France, but remained potentially open to possible three-way meetings with the EU and Armenia.

Speaking at a hearing in parliament on Wednesday, Colonna said Paris was not looking to escalate the crisis, but that it was normal to continues defensive weapons’ sales to Yerevan when “Azerbaijan has never stopped arming itself to carry out offensive actions”.

Colonna said the EU should send a clear signal that any attempt to threaten Armenia’s territorial integrity could not be accepted.

“I repeat, any action in this direction would give rise to robust reactions,” she said.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Additional reporting by John Irish; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Alex Richardson and Angus MacSwan)