Mixed Signals From Moldova Karabakh Talks

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia and Russia said Friday that talks with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were “constructive” but made no mention of a potential breakthrough in the long-running conflict.

Azerbaijan’s president, however, said peace talks had been fruitless, contradicting previous statements by Russia. “As far as the key topics are concerned, both sides could not move towards an agreement, and the main reason for this was because the position of the Armenian side was unconstructive,” Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev told Azeri state television.

He was speaking after talks with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian on the sidelines of a summit of ex-Soviet countries in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. The talks were designed to iron out differences in a proposed Karabakh peace plan. .

The Armenian Presidency had issued a statement after the meeting, describing as positive the three-hour talks with his Azeri counterpart. “During the three-hour meeting, both sides demonstrated constructive attitudes for continuing negotiations on the conflict’s peaceful resolution,” the statement said.

The United States, French and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group, which is mediating the talks, similarly said the meeting showed negotiations were moving forward.

“This was the fifth meeting between the two presidents in the last 10 months and confirmed the positive dynamic of their negotiations,” the group said in a statement from Chisinau.

“The talks were constructive and serious, including an in-depth, line-by-line discussion of a number of points of the co-chairs’ proposals.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also suggested earlier that Azerbaijan and Armenia had moved towards resolving their differences over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met Aliyev and Sarkisian during the CIS summit on Friday.

Lavrov had said after the meeting that advances were being made “step by step”.

The U.S. embassy in Chisinau had said after hosting the meeting that the two Caucasus leaders had held constructive talks on Thursday about the region.

Thursday’s meeting came amid talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan’s close ally Turkey to normalize relations and open borders. The two countries are expected to sign a deal in Zurich on Saturday to establish diplomatic relations and open their border after decades of hostility.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is due to attend the Zurich signing ceremony.

But Turkish officials say to move forward on this, Armenia must agree to a resolution of the Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan.

International mediators similarly say that a resolution to the Karabakh conflict would help smooth the way for the restoration of ties between Armenia and Turkey.

But analysts say political opposition in Armenia and the Diaspora to its president’s conciliatory policy on rapprochement with Turkey could force him to take a harder line on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Underscoring continued problems in restoring ties, around 60,000 people held a rally in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Friday and marched in protest against an accord meant to be signed between Armenia and Turkey this weekend.

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