Armenian, Turkish, Azeri Foreign Ministers Meet

UNITED NATIONS (Combined Sources)–The foreign ministers of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan met in New York on Friday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly without issuing a much talked about joint announcement.

News broke last week of renewed behind the scenes talks in Switzerland between Armenian and Turkish diplomats seeking to finalize a draft for a mutual declaration of good will to be signed during Friday’s tripartite meeting.

According to the Turkish Daily News, Nalbandian was also to give the “green light for a joint committee of historians to study the events of 1915.”

But no such declaration came during the press briefing following the meeting, which marked the first joint meeting between senior officials from all three countries.

Talking to reporters, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian thanked his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, for initiating the meeting, which he called constructive.

“We welcome the concept of a Caucasus platform because it is based on the principles of stability, security and cooperation in the region,” said nalbandian, who added that prior to the tripartite meeting he met with his Turkish counterpart and discussed and next steps brought forth during the September 6 meeting between the presidents of the two countries.

According to Babacan, regional issues were discussed during the meeting.

“We believe that the Caucasus region has great potential and that potential can be used if there’s peace and stability in the region to bolster friendly relations, but most importantly it will benefit the geopolitical situation and regional stability,” said Babacan, who added that he promoted Turkey’s proposal for the establishment of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform to manage relations in the Caucasus during the talks.

Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov, for his part, said that Turkey’s proposed platform was discussed all in an effort to bring stability to the region. “Each of us recognizes that there are risks and challenges in the region and we must confront them mutually,” he said.

Before the tripartite meeting, the Azeri and Armenian Turkish Foreign Ministers met with the US, Russian and French Minsk Group co-chairs and the OSCE’s Chairman-in-office Andrzej Kasprzyk.

In a press conference after the talks, US co-chair Matthew Bryza briefed reporters on the outcome of the first meeting. He described the Mammedyarov-Nalbandian meetings as “very practical,” and hinted at the likelihood of a meeting in the near future between the Armenian and Azeri presidents.

“We have discussed all the existing elemen’s for continuing the negotiation process,” Bryza said. “Of course, today we do not expect any turning points as [this meeting] was the first case when there was an opportunity to exchange opinions after the recent developmen’s in Georgia and before the presidential elections in Azerbaijan.”

According to Bryza, the Minsk Group does not expect any changes in the negotiations format before or after Azerbaijan’s presidential elections set for October this year. “[The Minsk Group] format brings its contribution, functions normally and we see that the [Armenian and Azeri] ministers agree with it,” he said.

Bryza went on to say that the negotiations process has made significant progress in recent months, describing the atmosphere of the negotiations as “favorable” and conducive to progress.

“During these months the level of trust between the two presidents has increased and I can say; [the foreign ministers] listen to each other and respect each other,” Bryza said, brushing aside Azerbaijan’s attempts to cast doubt on the Minsk Group as a viable format for peace talks.

“Of course, during all this time the cease-fire regime has not been violated but there was mutual hostility, and deep emotions,” he added. “In my opinion, the presidents must be guided by peace to overcome even personal distrust so that the people of the countries follow them, cooperate with each other, even establish economic partnership.”

Referring to Turkey’s recent overtures to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Bryza said that Turkey is member of the OSCE Minsk Group but is not a co-chairing country. “It is clear for us that the format of three co-chairing countries will continue functioning and will not change if Turkey has a constructive contribution to the process we will greet it.”

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