Armenian negotiators broke off informal peace talks with Azerbaijanis and headed home Sunday after accusing them of pressuring Armenians to evacuate two villages in Azerbaijan, a participant said.
Armenian leaders also said that the Armenian All-National Movement is refusing to ratify an agreement to seek a peaceful settlement of the conflict and exchange information on hostages.
The talks, held in Riga, Latvia, without the participation of the Soviet government, began Friday with mediators from people’s fronts movements in the western republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Direct talks followed on Saturday.
“Everything went well until there was a pause in the talks. Then the leaders of the Armenian All-National Movement in Yerevan told the negotiators to cut the talks,” said Ints Upmacis, a Latvian People’s Front leader present during the meeting.
The Armenians headed for Yerevan early Sunday, Upmacis said in a telephone interview.
The Armenian political movement in Yerevan accused the Azerbaijan People’s Front of pressing Armenian residents to evacuate the villages of Azad and Kamo in the Khanlar region of Azerbaijan, the official news agency Tass reported.
The residents were told they are in danger of being attacked, and the Armenians contend that the army said it is unable to guarantee their safety, Upmacis said.
“The Armenian National Movement board does not find it possible to continue joint consultations in Riga,” a statement issued by the movement’s press center in Yerevan said. “Joint consultations and talks can be possible in the future only on condition of the termination of such actions.”
When informed that the Armenians were planning to leave the talks, the Azerbaijani negotiators agreed to try to verify the Armenian claim, but Communist Party officials and Soviet army officials reached in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku said they had no information to support the charges.
The Azerbaijani delegation said it is ready to resume talks with the Armenians and departed for a meeting of representatives of pro-democracy groups in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Upmacis said.
Leaders of the Azerbaijani People’s Front in Baku could not be immediately reached to comment on the Armenian decision.
Outbreaks of ethnic violence have plagued the two southern republics for two years after Armenia’s demand for annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave located inside Azerbaijan.