Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has fired his top diplomat after criticizing him for “meaningless negotiations” with the South Caucasus neighbor.
According to the president’s decree, Jeyhun Bayramov who had been Azerbaijan’s minister of education, was appointed as the new foreign minister, replacing Elmar Mamedyarov.
Aliyev’s decision came a day after he harshly criticized Mammadyarov at a government session for his “passive” approach in dealing with deadly military clashes that erupted along the border with Armenia on July 12.
“What was the foreign minister doing? Where he was? We were all at work after the July 12 events … and I could not find him,” Aliyev said.
“Unfortunately, recently our diplomacy is not compatible with the successful development of our country. In some cases it is engaged in meaningless work, meaningless negotiations.”
At least eleven Azeri soldiers and a civilian and four Armenian troops have been killed in renewed border clashes between two former Soviet countries that fought a war in the 1990s over the mountainous Karabakh region.
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Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians since the late 1980s when more than 1 million Azeris fled their homes as Yerevan-armed separatists seceded from Baku.
The secession sparked a war which left 30,000 people dead before a ceasefire was declared in 1994.
The two countries are still technically at war, with Azerbaijan threatening to use force to take back 20 percent of its territory which is held by Armenia-backed separatists. Armenia has vowed to crush any offensive.
Russia has offered to mediate, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urging both countries to show restraint. Iran has also announced its readiness for mediation.
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Mediated by the Minsk Group of diplomats from Russia and some Western countries, peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia have been going on since the 1994 ceasefire.
Last week, Azerbaijan’s president threatened to withdraw from talks “if they do not yield results,” and rejected statements by negotiators that there could be no military solution.