Self Determination Remains Priority in Karabagh Peace Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Thursday that he and his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov will likely meet this month to discuss the Karabagh peace process after the latest Armenian-Azeri summit failed to produce any results.

"If I said that it could happen tomorrow I wouldn’t be exaggerating," he said–referring to the meeting. "It could happen very soon–it could happen at the end of this month. Everything depends on the co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group]."

Mamedyarov likewise said earlier this week that he is "awaiting news from the co-chairs."

The American–French–and Russian mediators have yet to announce their next steps. The failure by Presidents Robert Kocharian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to reach any agreemen’s during talks in Bucharest on Sunday and Monday dealt a serious blow to their efforts to settle the Karabagh conflict this year. In a joint statement on Tuesday–the Minsk Group insisted that "2006 remains the favorable window" to achieve peace in Karabagh.

"That window is still open," agreed Oskanian. "One should not rule out any development."

According to Oskanian–the Bucharest talks collapsed over the same stumbling block that precluded a breakthrough in the previous Armenian-Azeri summit held at the Rambouillet castle near Paris on February 10-11.

"The issue which the presidents discussed and tried to solve is very complicated indeed," he told a news conference. "This was the same issue which was put before the presidents at Rambouillet. It wasn’t solved then and it wasn’t solved now either."

Oskanian said only that the mediators came up with unspecified "new approaches" to the Karabagh dispute at Bucharest.

He said a one-page document on the basic principles of the framework agreement for resolution of the Karabagh conflict that had been put before the Presidents when they met in February in Rambouillet had grown to become a 2.5 page document in Bucharest–"but unfortunately the Presidents’ meeting did not mark a breakthrough."

He also said Azerbaijan’s recognition of the Karabagh Armenia’s’ right to self-determination is a key condition for a peaceful settlement.

Aliyev maintains–however–that he will never agree to Karabagh’s secession from Azerbaijan. Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian indicated on Wednesday he believes this was the main reason for the Bucharest fiasco. He warned that Baku is "losing its chance to resolve the Karabagh conflict by peaceful means."

A senior aide to Mountainous Karabagh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian said that he is not surprised with the outcome of the Bucharest talks. "The parties’ positions on the issue are still very different," Arman Melikian said.

"Azerbaijan must recognize the Nagorno Karabagh Republic. But it shows no signs of taking positive steps in that direction," he said.

Oskanian–meanwhile–confirmed that his talks with Mamedyarov should clarify whether it would make sense for Aliyev and Kocharian to meet again later this year. "I really don’t know [if the two presidents will meet in 2006]," he said. "We left Bucharest without agreeing on when the next meeting will take place. The only agreement was that if the co-chairs feel the need for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers–the President will have no problem with that."

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