Minsk Group Says Time to Change Karabakh Talks Format

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs met Saturday for the first time with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s new president, Bako Sahakian and suggested a change in the format of current peace negotiations.
“We spoke about the format of negotiations and noted that it’s an ineffective format. We spoke about Armenia’s participation and said we trust in Armenia. Moreover, we are grateful for its efforts, but for the logical conclusion of the talks the full participation of Karabakh is needed,” said Sahakian.
“I think we shall deepen and develop the cooperation with the leadership of Nagorno Karabakh,” said French Co-Chair Bernard Fassier. Commenting on the meetings with president Sahakian as positive and interesting, Fassier noted that “It’s obvious that one day we shall see the representatives of Nagorno Karabakh at the bargaining table and the sooner it happens, the better.”
“The meeting was fruitful, and we need to think on what we discussed,” Russian Co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov said after talks with President Sahakian.
U.S. mediator Matthew Bryza agreed with his colleague and emphasized that the onset of the new political season in Armenia and Azerbaijan did not mean the talks would be halted.
Sahakian said the Karabakh side asserted its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and constructive dialogue.
A number of other issues of mutual importance were also discussed. The meeting was attended by acting Foreign Minister Georgy Petrosian.
According to the Co-Chairs, the aim of the visit was to get acquainted with the newly elected President of Nagorno Karabakh and to exchange opinions.
According to the French Co-Chairman Bernard Fassier, the meeting was very interesting and positive, adding: “I think we shall deepen and develop the cooperation with the leadership of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
“It’s obvious that one day we shall see the representatives of Nagorno Karabakh ate the bargaining table, and the sooner it happens, the better. We have not set the current format, but it’s time to change it,” said Fassier.
The American, Russian and French diplomats also shed little light on their talks with President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian as they held a joint news conference before proceeding to Baku. In particular, they would not say if Kocharian is ready hold yet another face-to-face meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev before the end of this year.
The mediators hope that Aliyev and Kocharian will again try to iron out their remaining differences on a framework peace agreement put forward by the Minsk Group. The two leader failed to do that when they last met in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg in June, all but dashing hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh conflict.
Speaking to journalists earlier on Monday, the Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, said prospects for Karabakh peace have somewhat improved since then. “I feel relieved that the momentum is not completely gone,” he said. I thought that maybe it was gone after Saint Petersburg.”
“Depending on how the presidents react, maybe there really is room to resolve the last couple of issues we have out there,” he added.
Bryza insisted that the conflicting parties are still “close” to cutting a framework peace deal but avoided assessing chances of a breakthrough in the peace talks before presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year. “Whether that breakthrough will happen right now is impossible to say. That depends entirely on the two presidents,” he said.
Oskanian told RFE/RL earlier this month that Yerevan will agree to another Armenian-Azeri summit only if the mediators manage to bring the parties’ positions closer to each other during their trip to Yerevan and Baku. It remains unclear that the parties specifically disagree on.

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