Minsk Group Meeting with Aliyev ‘Very Tense’

BUCHAREST (Combined Sources)–The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs met with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev Wednesday. Azeri media quoted Aliyev’s foreign policy chief, Novruz Mammadov, as saying that the meeting was "quite tense," with the Azeri leader demanding that the co-chairs explain why their countries voted against the UN resolution.
Nonetheless, the group’s US co-chair, Matthew Bryza, sounded cautiously optimistic about peace prospects as he spoke to Armenian journalists after the talks with Sarkisian.
"I think the process is moving forward," Bryza said, according to the government statement. He expressed hope that Aliyev and Sarkisian will hold their first face-to-face meeting shortly after the latter is sworn in as Armenia’s new president on April 9.
The mediators hoped to arrange such a meeting during the NATO summit. But it did not take place because of objections voiced by the Azeri side. Sarkisian for his part reiterated his willingness to meet on the sidelines with the Azeri president if he expressed the wish to do so as well.
In related news, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov discussed Thursday Azerbaijan’s position on the settlement process.
"I don’t think Azerbaijan’s position on the Nagorno Karabakh issue has toughened," Mammadyarov told Armenian journalists. "It is the same as it has been during the past few years."
Mammadyarov also discussed Azerbaijan’s recent request to the OSCE for information regarding the replacement of Minsk Group co-chairs. Defending official Baku’s recent moves, Mammadyarov said it was necessary to clarify how the Minsk Group’s co-chairmanship works.
"It was established at one point and it must eventually be disbanded," he said. "In this context we want to find out how this process will work."
Mammadyarov denied that such moves could be interpreted as a warning to the co-chairs by Azerbaijan and instead said it was a clarification for the co-chairs to understand the responsibility they bear for the resolution of the conflict.
Commenting on the possibility of a future meeting between the Armenian and Azeri Azeri leaders, Mammadyarov said it would be difficult to give a concrete date, adding that Sarkisian’s inauguration should take place before any talks about future meetings.

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