Armenian-Azeri Talks Again Inconclusive

PARIS (Combined Sources)–The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Paris Tuesday for talks that again produced no breakthrough but kept open the possibility of a crucial Armenian-Azeri summit on Nagorno-Karabakh before the end of this year. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said he and his Azerbaijani opposite number Elmar Mammadyarov discussed "new ideas" on how to break the current deadlock in the peace process that were suggested by international mediators during their previous talks held in Moscow on October 6. He told RFE/RL that they agreed to hold yet another meeting three weeks later. Oskanian said he and Mammadyarov presented their governmen’s’ responses to the unspecified ideas put forward by the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. "I can’t say that there is full congruence in positions," he said. "There are differences. But there are also possibilities to bring our positions closer. So we need to continue to work on it."That’s why we agreed to hold another round of talks, most probably in Brussels around November 13, so that we continue our discussions to narrow down the differences," continued Oskanian. "If that materializes, it will make possible a meeting between our presidents during this year. There is also a possibility that the co-chairs may come to the region in preparation for the presidents’ meeting." Mammadyarov and other Azerbaijani officials did not immediately comment on the Paris talks that began in the presence of French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy. According to Oskanian, the talks continue to center on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement that were discussed by Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharian during their two face-to-face meetings this year and were disclosed by the mediators afterwards. They call for the conflict’s gradual resolution that would culminate in a referendum on Karabakh’s status. Oskanian said the mediators’ "new ideas" are aimed at bridging Baku’s and Yerevan’s differences on some key elemen’s of the proposed peace deal. He did not give details, saying only that he visited Stepanakert following the Moscow talks to discuss the issue with Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership. "In Karabakh, we managed to formulate a common position on those new ideas," he said. Karabakh officials have repeatedly expressed serious misgivings about the proposed peace formula, unlike official Yerevan, which seems to find it largely acceptable. Douste-Blazy was quoted by the Russian Itar-Tass news agency, as saying that he hoped the meeting between the two foreign ministers would yield tangible results, after meeting with each official separately. Itar-Tass also reported that French president Jacques Chirac will pay a state visit to Azerbaijan in 2007 January. The two foreign ministers emphasized the growing trade between the two countries, which tripled last year to 500 million euros.

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