US, Russian Karabakh Mediators to Be Replaced

ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN/KARABAKHMOSCOW (Combined Sources)—The Russian and American co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group will be replaced in the coming months, Russian co-chair, Yuri Merzlyakov, said on Wednesday.

Merzlyakov and his American counterpart Matthew Bryza will travel to the South Caucasus in September with French co-chair Bernard Fassier to prepare a new meeting between Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, who met in Moscow late last week.

That trip will be Bryza’s last one to the region in his capacity the American co-chair of the Minsk Group, Merzlyakov said, adding that he too may also be replaced this year.

“I hope that after seven years of service as Russian Co-Chair of the Minsk Group I’ll be allowed to leave the post,” Merzlyakov said. “I think it will take place this year.”

Merzlyakov was appointed to the Minsk Group in September 2003, replacing Ambassador Nikolai Gribkov.

Bryza, who is the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, was appointed as America’s chief negotiator for the Karabakh conflict in June 2006, replacing Steven Mann.

Earlier in June, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that Bryza had been short-listed to become the Obama Administration’s pick for the recently vacated ambassadorial post in Baku. That speculation was later echoed by Azeri media, which reported that the US diplomat had already been approved as the next ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Bryza, however, denied those reports, saying he had been assigned with finding a solution to the Karbakh conflict as the US co-chair of the Minsk Group.

“There is no information about my appointment as Ambassador,” Bryza reiterated during a press conference in Moscow Friday ahead of the meeting between Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev.

He added though that if there was to be such an appointment, he would be pleased to work in any South Caucasus country.

The three co-chairs will meet in Krakow, Poland on July 25-26 to discuss the upcoming Aliyev-Sarkisian summit, Merzlyakov was quoted as saying by the Azeri Trend News Agency.

The Russian diplomat said he hoped an October summit of heads of state from the Commonwealth of Independent States, being held in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, would yield “some achievements” on Karabakh “which could not be gained at the presidents’ Moscow meeting.”

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