Armenia And Azerbaijan Announce No Progress in Karabagh Talks

(AP/Yerkir)–The Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia’said Tuesday that talks between their countries’ leaders had made no progress toward a settlement of the dispute over Karabagh–but that they had instructions to continue negotiations.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev discussed the conflict on the sidelines of a Black Sea summit in Bucharest–Romania–on Sunday and Monday. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group–which is trying to broker a resolution of the 18 year old conflict–were also present.

Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told state television that the talks had been conducted "in a normal atmosphere–but they did not succeed in registering progress and giving a positive impulse to solving the problem of the Karabagh conflict."

Still–he said that he and Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov had orders to try to find points on which they could bring the two countries’ positions closer.

Mamedyarov said that–in spite of the lack of a breakthrough–the Aliyev-Kocharian meeting had seen a "wide discussion" of the details of a settlement.

"We decided to continue the process and–if necessary–to hold another meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers," Mamedyarov said.

However–Mamedyarov added that–"there is still hope for the peaceful resolution of the conflict and we are eager to continue efforts in this direction."

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group said that the meetings took place in a good atmosphere and expressed hope that the conflict can be resolved this year.

"The co-chairs still believe that 2006 is the window to reach an agreement regarding Karabagh–and I don’t want to characterize exactly where we might be in that process," said Steven Mann–the co-chair representing the US in Bucharest.

Mann also said that the mediators believe that the Karabagh conflict can still be resolved this year. "The co-chairs still believe that 2006 is the window to reach an agreement regarding Karabagh," he said.

Russian co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov said that the responsibility for the conflict resolution should not be laid on the two sides only.

"They should themselves reach an agreement but with the support of the mediators," Merzlyakov said.

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