YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–International mediators urged the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan late Wednesday to resume "as soon as possible" negotiations on the basic principles of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement that were formally submitted to the conflicting parties last November.
In a joint statesmen, the US, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group said they pressed for the holding of a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh during separate meetings last week with the foreign ministers of the two countries. They said both sides agreed to such a summit "in principle." The statement did not specify when and where it might take place.
Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said earlier this month that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and his newly elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, could meet on the sidelines of the NATO summit that will take place in Bucharest on April 3-4.
Oskanian said nothing about such a meeting as he commented on the Karabakh peace process in Armenia’s parliament on Wednesday. He spoke instead about Azerbaijan’s reported deman’s for the dissolution of the Minsk Group and a radical change in the format of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. He said Baku has been emboldened by the passage late last week of a UN General Assembly resolution that upheld Azerbaijani sovereignty over Karabakh and demanded an "unconditional" Armenian withdrawal from occupied Azerbaijani territories.
Aliev on Thursday touted the resolution as a "big diplomatic victory" for Azerbaijan." According to the APA news agency, he also said that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity can not be a subject of negotiations with the Armenia’s.
Armenia’s outgoing President Robert Kocharian, meanwhile, said Yerevan should formally recognize the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state if Baku pulls out of the Minsk Group process. "At least, that’s what I would do," he told reporters.
"We can’t have a better format," Kocharian said of the Minsk Group. "But that doesn’t mean that if Azerbaijan doesn’t want to negotiate, we will cling to [that format.] They don’t want to? No problem. But they must at the same time think about who will bear responsibility for further developmen’s."
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin also spoke out against any changes in the negotiation format.
"Any change in format would bring a sense of uncertainty and an expectation of something new," he said after meeting Kocharian and Sarkisian in Yerevan. "I think that is hardly appropriate in delicate and sensitive processes like a peaceful settlement."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told a press conference in Yerevan Thursday that Russia is concerned with Azerbaijan’s violation of the ceasefire line. Russia, he said, expects that the possible meeting of the Armenian and Azeri leaders at the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania on April 2 will help reduce the tension in the region.
Karasin was in Armenia Thursday meeting with President Kocharian, Prime Minister and President Elect Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
The Russian minister told reporters that a broad framework for Russian-Armenian relations was discussed during their meetings. Other issues of bilateral interest were also discussed, he noted.
Armenia’s foreign policy, its domestic situation, bilateral relations with Russia, and Sarkisian’s upcoming visit to Russia were all discussed during the visit, he added.