Karabakh Mediators Pushing Another Armenian-Azeri Summit

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)– International mediators expressed hope on Tuesday that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet again soon and make further progress towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“Before the war the Armenia’s and Azerbaijanis lived in Nagorno-Karabakh and now it is necessary to organize their future life,” Bernard Fassier, the French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, told reporters at a press conference in Baku, adding that a framework should be created to ensure the peaceful coexistence of the two peoples.

The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group spoke in Yerevan before proceeding to Baku where they already held talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the start of their latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy late last week.

“We hope that the two presidents can meet again in the coming months,” Fassier told reporters in Yerevan. “This means we are going to Baku with positive feelings.”

He declined to specify possible dates for what would be Aliyev’s fourth face-to-face meeting with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian in less than a year. “Let us first present our proposed dates for the meeting to the presidents so they can decide,” he said.

The three co-chairs were also in Stepanakert Saturday meeting with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian. In the talks, Sahakian urged the co-chairs to restore Karabakh’s right to participate in peace talks as a full-fledged party to the conflict. No “comprehensive settlement” is possible without Karabakh’s inclusion at the table, he stressed.

“At a certain point it will be necessary to involve all parties to the conflict in the negotiations process,” Fassier added, referring to Nagorno-Karabakh’s exclusion from the talks. He said it would be hard to determine when that day will come as it depends on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Commenting on the current format of negotiations, Russian co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov echoed his French counterpart, describing the Armenia-Azerbaijan format as a more effective process that has yielded “greater impulses from meetings” than “ it would have if Karabakh had also been a participant. “If you think Nagorno Karabakh could act as one of the conflicting parties, the issue should be considered on a different level,” he added.

Aliyev and Sarkisian most recently met in Zurich, Switzerland in late January. The mediators gave a positive assessment of the talks in a subsequent statement. They said they hope that the conflicting parties will finalize an agreement on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by them “in the nearest future.”

One possible occasion for the next Aliyev-Sarkisian encounter is a European Union summit in Prague scheduled for May 7. EU leaders are expected to formally launch the bloc’s so-called Eastern Partnership program of closer ties with six former Soviet republics, including Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Earlier in February the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, was in Yerevan where he told Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian that Yerevan must improve relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan if it is to qualify for membership in the Eastern Partnership program.

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