Mediators Visit Baku Yerevan ahead of Crucial Karabagh Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)– The US–Russian–and French diplomats leading the OSCE Minsk Group The US–Russian–and French diplomats leading the OSCE Minsk Group ended yet another visit to Azerbaijan and Armenia on Thursday to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the two countries’ presidents in France.

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–according to his press office–discussed with the international mediators certain details of next week’s Armenian-Azeri summit and "exchanged thoughts on prospects for a settlement." They were then received by President Robert Kocharian and were due to meet Oskanian again before leaving Yerevan later in the day.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov also met with the mediators before they arrived in Armenia.

Yuri Merzlyakov–the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group–said that he and his French and American colleagues remain cautiously optimistic about peace chances. He also downplayed Aliyev’s latest assurances that Baku will never agree to a peaceful settlement that would not restore Azeri control over Karabagh.

"These commen’s were not addressed to us and we didn’t hear them," Merzlyakov said as he left the Foreign Ministry building in Yerevan. "It’s therefore hard for me to comment on them."

Speaking after talks with Belgium’s visiting Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht last week–Oskanian stated that Aliyev and Kocharian will try to agree on the "basic principles of the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict" when they meet next week.

"There still remain difficult issues on which Armenia and Azerbaijani differ and which make us cautious in our expectations," Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian said in a statement on Wednesday. "Nevertheless–let us hope that the presidents will succeed in making yet another step forward in Paris."


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