YEREVAN (RFE/RL)International mediators seeking a solution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict were briefed on Thursday by President Robert Kocharian on his most recent direct talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart–Heydar Aliev–as they opened a new round of shuttle diplomacy in the region.
A team of senior French–Russian and U.S. diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the meeting with Kocharian was "very useful" but did not comment on details.
Russia’s representative–Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov–said only that they found the results of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit "encouraging."What the president of Armenia told us today gives us hope for the future," Trubnikov told journalists in Yerevan.
The group’s U.S. co-chair–Rudolf Perina–agreed–saying: "We hope there will be future opportunities for the two presidents to meet."
On August 14–both Aliev and Kocharian were upbeat about their four hour–one-on-one talks held on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border; both stopped short–however–of announcing a breakthrough in their territorial dispute. Neither left any indication that the Karabagh conflict would be resolved before next year’s presidential elections in their countries.
Both leaders are seeking reelection next year and are now more reluctant to make unpopular concessions to each other.
Trubnikov admitted that the pre-election mood in Armenia and Azerbaijan is "leaving its imprint on the [negotiating] process–but the bottom line is that the process is not being suspended. It is going on," he claimed.
Trubnikov also indicated that both Aliev and Kocharian remain committed to major agreemen’s on Karabagh they reached during intensive peace talks in Paris and Key West at the beginning of last year. "In my view–there has been no retreat from those agreemen’s," he said.
Armenian and Karabagh leaders have implicitly accused Aliev of subsequently walking away from those agreemen’s–a charge denied by the latter. Some Azerbaijani officials deny that any far-reaching deals were made at Paris and Key West.
The Minsk Group–meanwhile–plans to "expand its work" in the coming weeks–according to its recently appointed French co-chair–Hugues Pernet. He said the mediators will discuss the Karabagh problem with the European Union’s top foreign policy makers–Javier Solana and Chris Patten–in Brussels on October 9.
The co-chairs were due to travel to Nagorno-Karabagh later on Thursday to meet with the leadership. They will proceed to the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Friday.