Jens Stoltenberg says 'unresolved' conflict between Azerbaijan, Armenia is concerning
The Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia remains a matter of concern, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
"It is clear that there is no military solution to this conflict and NATO has no direct role," Stoltenberg told a news conference, alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said NATO supported the work of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
Addressing Aliyev, Stoltenberg said: "I am encouraged to hear about your renewed dialogue with the president of Armenia [Serzh Sargsyan]. We encourage you to continue the path to a negotiated solution and to avoid any new escalation."
Aliyev said the biggest threat to regional security was the unresolved conflict.
"For many years, our territories are under Armenian occupation. More than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and internally displaced persons," he said.
Aliyev said ethnic cleansing had been conducted against Azerbaijanis in the region.
"Armenia wants to keep the status quo as long as possible despite the statements of the OSCE Minsk group presidents. That status quo is unacceptable and must be changed," he added.
Aliyev said despite UN Security Council resolutions demanding the "immediate and unconditional" withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied territories, Armenia had failed implement them for more than 20 years.
"The resolution of the conflict must be based on relevant Security Council resolutions of the UN and [the] territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,” he said.
Occupied Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijani territory by the international community but was taken over by Armenian secessionists as the Soviet Union broke up in the late 1980s.
Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.
Stoltenberg also said NATO was grateful for Azerbaijan's continued commitment to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, with troops, transit and financial support given to the Afghan national security forces.
Ninety-four Azerbaijani personnel serve with NATO forces in the troubled country.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan had participated in many NATO operations and as well as the Resolute Support mission.