Armenia, Azerbaijan Resume Karabakh Talks

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow Tuesday to resume their discussions on an international plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The fresh talks between Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov again took place in the presence of the American, French and Russian mediators acting under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group flew to Baku later in the day to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy that highlights their persisting hopes for a quick solution to the Karabakh dispute. Oskanian presented the Moscow talks as a follow-up to the Armenian and Azeri presidents’ November meeting in Minsk which appeared to have brought the parties closer to a peaceful settlement. "On the basis of the presidents’ meeting in Minsk we tried to discuss the second layer of some principles, some details as a first step to deepen the negotiations," he told RFE/RL. "In that sense, the talks proceeded in a positive atmosphere. I can’t say that there were serious movemen’s [forward] in addition to what we had before. That said, I think it was a productive effort, and we must continue the talks," said Oskanian. Mammadyarov avoided contacts with media before returning to Baku together with the mediators. The latter are scheduled to meet Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and proceed to Yerevan on Wednesday. According to Oskanian, Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian are unlikely to hold another face-to-face meeting before the Armenian parliamentary election due in May. Kocharian has made it clear that he will not sign any unpopular peace accords with Aliyev before the polls. Diplomatic sources say the parties are far more likely to cut a peace later this year, before presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2008. Meanwhile, another Armenian soldier has been shot and killed in a reported skirmish with Azeri soldiers. The Karabakh military said on Tuesday that the soldier, Mher Movsisian, died of wounds sustained on Sunday in the Armenian-controlled Fizuli district southeast of the disputed territory. "The tragic incident on 21 January proves that Azerbaijan’s statemen’s on the need to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict run counter to its action on the ground," it said in a statement. Another Armenian serviceman was reportedly shot dead at the Armenian-Azeri border on Monday. In a related development, Aliyev’s top military adviser reiterated Tuesday Baku’s threats to resolve the dispute through force. "We are ready at any moment, on the order of the commander in chief, to carry out our military task and liberate the occupied territories," Vahid Aliyev said, according to the Associated Press. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the new chairman in office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has outlined his priorities for 2007 and said the organization must regain its unity. Moratinos’s predecessor, Karel De Gucht, made a priority of finding a resolution to the frozen conflicts in Transdniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh during his tenure in 2006. Expectations were high, especially regarding a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh. The presidents and foreign ministers of both countries met on several occasions; there was talk of a framework peace agreement. But in the end, a settlement remained elusive. While the issue remains important in 2007, Moratinos said there was no "magic wand" to solve the frozen conflicts. "Well, frozen conflicts of course are still a priority for the Spanish chairmanship. But I have to be very clear: we are very pragmatic, we don’t want to create great expectations, we’ll be a very serious facilitator, but we don’t want to create an impression that the new Spanish presidency will be able to solve all these long-standing frozen conflicts," Moratinos said. The parties themselves are the ones who have to deliver, Moratinos said, and be able to make a compromise.

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