Oskanian’s Illness Delays New Round of Karabagh Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The next and potentially crucial round of Armenian-Azeri peace talks on Karabagh–scheduled for Wednesday–has been postponed due to Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s illness–officials in Yerevan said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry Sedrak Bejanian–said the meeting between Oskanian and his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov may still take place in Prague later this week. "Everything depends on the minister’s health condition," he said.

Oskanian is said to be suffering from an acute cold. He has not been seen in public since returning from a visit to Equatorial Guinea a week ago.

Meanwhile–Mammadyarov was already in Prague on Monday. Azeri media–citing the Foreign Ministry in Baku–said the meetings mediated by the French–Russian–and US co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group will take place in Paris on Thursday.

Bejanian did not confirm or refute the information. "Nothing can be ruled out," he said.

The planned talks are part of "the Prague process." It began last year and raised new hopes for a breakthrough in the protracted search for Karabagh peace. Speaking after his most recent encounter with Mammadyarov in the Czech capital on January 11–Oskanian said the "second phase" of that process could prove decisive.

The mediators are also cautiously optimistic. "We hope that there will be progress," the chief French negotiator–Bernard Fassier–said on February 8.

For his part–US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans remarked in a recent speech in California that the current situation bodes well for the conflict’s resolution as neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan is nearing an election. Addressing a group of Armenian-Americans–Evans also stated that "Karabagh can’t be given back to Azerbaijan."

The remark drew protests from Azerbaijan. Baku’s ambassador in Washington–Hafiz Pashaev–said he was assured by senior US State Department officials that Evans had expressed his personal opinion.

In a statement on Monday–the US envoy said he regrets "misunderstandings" caused by his commen’s but did not retract them.


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