Armenian, Azeri Leaders to Meet Next Week

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet again next week and try to make further progress towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after holding fresh talks with international mediators.

The potentially decisive meeting was confirmed after the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group met President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan on Tuesday.

The mediators were received by Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliev in Baku the previous day. They said afterward that that Aliev accepted their proposal to meet Sarkisian on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that starts on January 28.

Sarkisian, according to his office, also agreed to the proposal. “Agreement was reached on organizing a meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan soon,” the office said in a written statement.

Yuri Merzlyakov, the Minsk Group’s Russian co-chair, on Monday spoke of January 28 as the “most convenient” date for the meeting. “The leadership of Azerbaijan has given its consent to such a meeting,” he told journalists in Baku said, according to Azerbaijani news agencies.

The United States, Russia and France urged Aliev and Sarkisian last month to bridge their differences on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement, put forward by the Minsk Group, in “coming months.”

Matthew Bryza, the chief U.S. Karabakh negotiator, confirmed on Tuesday that the mediators hope to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework peace deal by next summer. “Our target is to try to have it signed in the beginning of summer, in June or so,” he told RFE/RL just before the co-chairs went into talks with Sarkisian. “So there is certainly a chance. That’s exactly why we are here.”

“It depends on, number one, whether the presidents have found a way or can find a way to build on mutual understanding and positive feelings they have about each other and turn that into concrete steps,” Bryza said. “I hope so. We had a pretty good response in Baku yesterday.”

“It also depends on whether the society is understanding what’s being proposed,” he added. “Because if they do understand it they will support it. So we’ve got some work to do.”


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