Azeri minister sacked for 'meaningless' efforts over conflict with Armenia

BAKU (Reuters) - Azeri President Ilham Aliyev sacked his foreign minister on Thursday after accusing him of “meaningless negotiations” with neighbouring Armenia amid a flare-up in hostilities between two South Caucasus countries.

Eleven Azeri soldiers and a civilian and four Armenian servicemen have been killed in border clashes between two former Soviet countries that fought a war in the 1990s over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Aliyev said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov did not do enough to try to resolve the conflict.

“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 told a government meeting of the start of the clashes on Sunday.

“... 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.”

Mamedyarov, 60, has been foreign minister since April 2004.

Two South Caucasus countries have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But the latest flare-ups broke out around the Tavush region in northeast Armenia, some 300 km (190 miles) from the enclave.

Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia frequently accuse each other of attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Azeri-Armenian frontier.

According to the president’s decree, former education minister Jeikhun Bayramov was appointed to succeed Mamedyarov.

Reporting by Nailia Bagirova; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie