Minsk Group Co-Chairmen Visit Karabakh, Armenia
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—US, Russian and French mediators visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Armenia and met with top government officials there in a fresh round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at kick-starting the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process.
The three diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group began the tour with meetings with Karabakh leaders in Stepanakert on Tuesday. They met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan on Thursday. The troika is due to travel to Azerbaijan early next month.
“We don’t have results. We are still talking. We are going to meet with the president in a few minutes,” Ian Kelly, the recently appointed U.S. co-chair, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) after the meeting with Nalbandian.
“We are exchanging ideas at this point,” Kelly said without going into details.
Sarkisian’s and Nalbandian’s press offices also gave no details of the talks.
The mediators announced plans to again tour the region after meeting separately with Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Paris early this month. In a joint statement issued in the French capital, they “repeated their concerns” regarding Armenian plans to launch commercial flights to Karabakh and Azerbaijan’s threats to forcibly prevent them. They also expressed concern at the continuing ceasefire violations in the conflict zone.
The Stepanakert Airport issue was apparently high on the agenda of the troika’s talks in Stepanakert. “Rest assured that we keep working in that direction and have concrete proposals which we are discussing with the parties,” Jacques Faure, the French co-chair, told jouralists in the Karabakh capital. He did not elaborate.
The mediators’ latest regional tour began amid fresh accusations traded by Baku and Yerevan. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday again blamed the current impasse in the negotiation process on the “destructive position” of the Armenian side. Aliyev also repeated his claims that Armenia is no match to his nation in terms of military and economic might.
Nalbandian hit back in written comments released late on Wednesday. “The only reason for the lack of progress and the persisting status quo is Azerbaijan,” he said, accusing Baku of rejecting peace proposals made by the mediating powers in the last few years.
Nalbandian also said that Aliyev should instead pick his government’s poor human rights record to draw comparisons with Armenia. “Azerbaijan is deepening the foundations of authoritarian rule while Armenia those of democracy,” he claimed.