Armenian Azeri Leaders Hold Crucial Karabagh Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke for nearly three hours late Sunday and early Monday in closely watched talks on Mountainous Karabagh.

Information about the meeting held on the sidelines of a Council of Europe summit in Warsaw was scarce. Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharian were reported to approve another series of talks between their foreign ministers who have reported progress towards a peaceful settlement in recent months.

According to Azeri sources–Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov indicated that the two leaders discussed a timetable for Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azeri territories around Karabagh.

However–an Armenian foreign ministry official in Yerevan told Agence France-Presse that he has no information about such a agreement.

"We are discussing which district should be liberated and when," Mammadyarov told Azerbaijan’s ATV channel–according to BBC Monitoring. "They [the Armenia’s] agree that all the districts should be returned–however–they are thinking of a timeframe. There are many issues involved such as the military issue–the return of refugees–the issue of land mines and the rehabilitation of the territories."

Yet another Azeri TV station–ANS–reported the contrary–quoted Mammadyarov as saying that although Aliyev and Kocharian "did not make a significant breakthrough" they decided to continue the so-called "Prague process" of meetings of the two foreign ministers mediated by French–Russian and US diplomats.

Armenia has not released any details of the Warsaw talks that began at 11 p.m. local time and continued into early hours of the morning. "The presidents did not find it necessary to issue any statemen’s to the media after the meeting," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian said. "There is nothing I can say about their agreemen’s and discussions. The presidents will do that if they find it necessary."

Gasparian said that Aliyev and Kocharian began the meeting in the presence of the Russian and French foreign ministers as well as the three co-chairs of the mediating Minsk Group–and then spoke for two hours in a tte–tte format. Speaking to journalists after meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later on Monday–Aliyev said the two presidents "reviewed" their positions.

"You know that our foreign ministers often meet and discuss different issues," he said. "We shall not issue a statement for the press today as it is early yet. I hope that the negotiations will produce results and the issues between us will be resolved."

Kocharian did not elaborate–only saying–"I see the prospect for finding a settlement of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict in the context of respect for European values," he said without elaborating in a subsequent speech at the Warsaw summit.

The Aliyev-Kocharian talks were preceded by Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s meeting with the US–Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Gasparian declined to reveal its details.


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