Armenia, Azerbaijan Agree to Hold Presidential-Level Meeting

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The Armenian side has agreed to a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which is likely to take place in Minsk on November 28. This was announced by OSCE Minsk Group cochairman from Russia Yuri Merzlyakov in a press briefing at Zvartnots airport on Wednesday, shortly before the cochairmen’s departure. Merzlyakov described as "rich in content and effective" the meetings with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. "We still need to get the Azeri side’s consent regarding the meeting, in Baku later today, although earlier Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Mamedyarov made a corresponding statement in this regard," the Russian cochairman’said. Commenting on the fact that only two of the three cochairmen of the Minsk Group arrived in Yerevan, Merzlyakov said that they had agreed on the division of work and US cochairman Matthew Bryza "one of these days is due to meet [Nagorno-Karabakh President] Mr. Arkady Ghoukasian, who is now on a visit to the United States."On the whole, we think that the year is ending on a pretty optimistic note," the Russian cochairman’said, adding: "If we manage to keep this mood of the sides, and we hope that we will manage to do that, then we will enter 2007 with quite good prospects." According to French cochairman Bernard Fassier, "settling such a conflict is like building a wall of peace."Every time we try to help the sides to put one or two bricks into that wall, and we keep adding bricks, it is good," the French cochairman’stated, emphasizing: "But the wall now is not strong enough yet to make it possible to write an ultimate settlement agreement."As your foreign minister said, from October we presented not new, but additional elemen’s, and we hope that those additional elemen’s will give an opportunity to implement that approach," Fassier said. To the question about Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric, Merzlyakov expressed an opinion that in the recent period fewer such statemen’s have been made. "We always assume that similar ‘passionate’ rhetoric impedes the process, especially when those statemen’s are made on the threshold of some important meeting or at crucial momen’s," Merzlyakov said. "Anyway, we didn’t feel that it would essentially obstruct the basic task to complete 2006 with the third meeting of the presidents."In this sense in Washington, Paris and Moscow we have one position that war cannot be a real possibility for settling this conflict," Fassier said. In Baku, Novruz Mammadov, the head of the presidential foreign policy department told reporters Wednesday that Azeri President Ilham Aliyev will give his approval to meet with his Armenian counterpart "if there is a tangible focus for discussions."I suppose that the efforts by the co-chairs will enable progress to be achieved within the negotiations," he stated. On a related matter, an informal meeting between the defense ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan may be held as CIS military heads are meeting in Brest, Ukraine Thursday this week. As reported by the National News Agency with a reference to the CIS Executive Committee, two months ago a meeting of the Defense Ministers was held at the border of the two countries for the first time after a long break. The possibility of continued dialogue was discussed for three days during the meeting of CIS Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushaylo and Armenian Defense Minister Serge Sargsyan.

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