European Officials Meet Karabagh Armenian Presidents on Peace After Azeri Vote

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU) spoke Tuesday of a "window of opportunity" to resolve the Mountainous Karabagh conflict after the presidential election in Azerbaijan following separate talks with Armenian leaders.

The OSCE’s rotating chairman-in-office–Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer–and a high-level EU envoy held separate meetings in Yerevan with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Karabagh President Arkady Ghukasian.

Scheffer told reporters afterwards that international efforts to settle the conflict were the main theme of his "very substantive conversations." He urged Kocharian and Azerbaijan’s newly elected president Ilham Aliyev–to press ahead with a search for a compromise solution now that they are not constrained by electoral politics.

"I said to the president that I sincerely hope that the elections which were held in this country some time ago and the very recent elections held in Azerbaijan? will open a window of opportunity to resume the talks on Karabagh," Scheffer said–stressing that he would convey the exact message to Aliyev in meeting with him in Baku on Wednesday.

"President-elect Aliyev and the Armenian president should be bold and try to get the process off the ground again," the Dutch minister added before proceeding to Georgia on the second leg of his regional swing.

The OSCE serves as a largely ceremonial umbrella structure for its Minsk Group–composed of US–Russian and French negotiators who have been trying to broker a mutually acceptable peace accord. The trio is due to tour the zone of conflict in the coming weeks with new peace proposals.

The dispute with Azerbaijan was also high on the agenda of the Armenian and Karabagh leaders’ talks with Heikki Talvitie–the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus who is also touring the three regional states. Talvitie likewise noted that the post-election situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan bodes well for a breakthrough on Karabagh. "The position of the new Azerbaijani president will be very important for the future of the region," he said.

The EU envoy also emphasized that the presidents of both countries must be "able to negotiate" on Karabagh.

Ghukasian’s press office only said a range of issues concerning developing ties between the EU and region’s countries–as well as EU’s possible contribution to the Karabagh conflict resolution talks were discussed.

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