Rice and Mamedyarov to Meet in Washington

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/PanArmenian.Net)–Russia’s chief Karabagh negotiator and Minsk Group co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov said Monday that the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will hold further discussions on the Karabagh conflict this week in Moscow and Washington respectively.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov will meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington–DC from April 6-7. At the same time–Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. The Karabagh dispute will be high on the agenda of both talks.

"The Minsk Group is today working in a more bilateral format. Namely–the co-chairs plus a representative of Armenia or Azerbaijan," said Merzlyakov.

Merzlyakov said that the peace process is not in deadlock and may still yield a breakthrough this year. He pointed to a continuing flurry of diplomatic activity involving top representatives of the conflicting parties as well as the three nations co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.

The Russian diplomat added that the Minsk Group’s French co-chair–Bernard Fassier–will pay a separate visit to Baku and Yerevan later this month. The group’s third–US co-chair–Steven Mann–toured the conflict zone last month as part of a high-level US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried.

In a March 27 speech in Washington–Fried said he was "sufficiently encouraged" by what he was told by Azeri and Armenian leaders. He also said that the United States will not seek to impose any solutions on the parties. "We’re not going to force Armenia or Azerbaijan to take anything," he said.

Merzlyakov also stated that the international mediators do not plan to arrange another meeting between Presidents Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev in the coming months. He said the two leaders could only meet on the sidelines of an international forum.

"The meeting of the Presidents should be properly prepared and this deman’s time," he said.

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