MOSCOW (Combined Sources)—In a weekend statement following Friday’s meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Moscow, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group signaled that the time had come begin discussing Nagorno-Karabakh’s direct participation in the negotiations process.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met for more than three hours in Moscow on Friday in the latest round of Minsk Group mediated negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. After two hours of face-to-face discussions, the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents were joined by their foreign ministers and the three co-chairmen of the Minsk Group. The following day, the two South Caucasus leaders were joined by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in their negotiations.
Describing the weekend summit as an “unprecedented” development, the American, French and Russian co-chairs expressed hope that a new round of discussions on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would now begin.
Speaking to reporters following the Moscow talks, US co-chairman Matthew Bryza remained cautiously optimistic on the outcome of the talks, which he described as “deep, concrete and serious.”
Bryza, who was joined by his Russian and French counterparts, said that the recent round of talks did not include any discussions on Nagorno-Karabakh’s direct participation but noted the group’s acknowledgment of the need to begin discussions around the issue.
The co-chairs plan to visit the region in September to prepare another meeting between Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in the Russian capital for a new phase of negotiations which, according to Bryza, will deal with the” complicated and residual issues” now on the table.
Some of those issues, he said, should focus on the participation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the peace process. The US Diplomat was joined by his Russian counterpart Yuri Merzlyakov, in stressing that no final solution can be reached on the conflict without Karabakh’s participation.
Bryza, who is to visit the region again August, said the co-chairs pay attention to Stepanakert and believe “that without their participation and agreement no settlement is possible.”
He also said that an awareness of this principle has taken the negotiations process to a new round of discussions, different in content than the previous round. He added that the negations thus far have been focused on reaching agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Madrid Principles, which outlines the basic principles necessary for further negotiations.
No timetable, however, was given on when Karabakh would return to the negotiating table with, Merzlyakov saying only that it will “become expedient” when the basic principles have already been approved.
The Presidents of France, Russia and the United States urged Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this month “to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement” on an updated version of the so-called Madrid Principles.
In a joint statement, the three presidents listed six of those principles proposed by the mediators as a basis for further negotiations. They, in particular, call for the ceding of the liberated Armenian territories surrounding Karabakh to Azerbaijani control and a “future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will.”
Speaking about the updated Madrid document at a press conference in Yerevan Monday, Armenia’s Foreign Minister, Eduard Nalbandian, insisted that Yerevan had not given its approval to the controversial Madrid document. “We said that the Madrid document serves as a basis for negotiations,” the minister explained
Nalbandian also denied statements by his Azeri counterpart alleging an agreed upon timetable for returning the liberated territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. “I can tell you that this issue has not been discussed at the Moscow meeting,” he emphasized.
According to Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov also told reporters in Baku on Monday that he feels “there is certain progress in the Karabakh conflict settlement” and that “certain hopes have emerged after the meeting of the two presidents in Moscow.”
“When I say that the settlement process has become more active, I first of all mean Russia’s greater activity in the process. Some principles of the agreement have already been published and work on them continues,” explained Mammadyarov.