Russian Mediator Meets Oskanian Ahead of Minsk Group Visit

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Russia’s chief Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator–First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov–met with senior Armenian officials on Monday in advance of the start of another visit to the region by a team of American–French and Russian mediators.

The two other co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are due to arrive in the Armenian capital early on Tuesday on the first leg of a tour of the conflict zone. Their talks in Yerevan–Stepanakert and Baku will be important for the success of the most recent international effort to end the Karabakh conflict–which was thrust into uncertainty after the postponement of a crucial Armenian-Azerbaijani summit last month.

Official sources gave no details of Trubnikov’s talks with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–saying only that the "main discussions" of the Karabakh issue will take place on Tuesday with the entire Minsk Group troika.

In a sign of the issue’s importance for Moscow–Trubnikov personally led the Russian negotiating team at the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks in Key West last April and subsequent consultations held by the mediators. His US and French counterparts are–by contrast–middle-ranking diplomats.

The co-chairs–who say that a solution to the Karabakh dispute is now within reach–will try to build on the agreemen’s reached by the parties since the beginning of the year. They have played down the cancellation of the Geneva meeting between Presidents Heydar Aliev and Robert Kocharian–saying that the two leaders need more time to prepare ground for a compromise deal.

Meanwhile–Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian claimed on Sunday that the peace process was "frozen" last May because the Azerbaijani side "was not prepared to continue the process." Yerevan has previously refrained from directly blaming Baku for what it says are "complications" impeding a long-awaited breakthrough.

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