YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–International mediators said over the weekend that Armenia disagrees with some provisions of their recently modified plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group met with Karabakh Armenian leaders late on Saturday before heading back to Yerevan for talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held on Monday evening. Official Armenian sources gave no details of the talks.
They focused on what the mediators call an “updated version” of their basic principles of Karabakh peace. Armenia has so far declined to publicly clarify its response to the still unpublicized changes made in the so-called Madrid document.
Yuri Merzlyakov, the group’s Russian co-chair, described those changes as “proposals on the principles not agreed upon on” which he said were presented to the conflicting parties “in some new formulations.” He refused to elaborate. “We did not discuss concrete formulations,” Merzlyakov told reporters after the Yerevan talks.
During talks with the co-chairs, Karabakh President Bako Sahakian reiterated his government’s position that the negotiations are doomed to fail without the full participation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Sahakian also criticized the “unconstructive, militaristic approaches of Azerbaijan” as damaging to mediation efforts.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry, for its part, quoted Nalbandian as telling the co-chairs that Yerevan continues to regard the Madrid principles as “the basis for negotiations.”
Speaking to journalists in Stepanakert the previous day, Merzlyakov said Yerevan has voiced a number of objections to the modified proposals. He declined to specify them.
“But we are not dramatizing the situation at all because two years ago the situation with the Madrid document was the same, with the Armenian side claiming to accept it — not fully, as it is turning out now — and the Azerbaijani side not accepting it,” the Russian diplomat said. “We then worked hard with [Azerbaijan] to reach a common denominator when both sides seemed to back those Madrid principles with the exception of four outstanding issues which we continued to discuss and which necessitated what you call renewed proposals.”
His French counterpart, Bernard Fassier, also tried to put an optimistic spin on the negotiating process. “There are areas of mutual understanding,” he said.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov has said that the updated Madrid document is acceptable to Baku “with a number of exceptions” and that further progress in the talks hinges on its acceptance by the Armenian side. One major “exception” for Baku is the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan rules out self-determination or independence for Nagorno-Karabakh, insisting that it be part of Azerbaijan.
Sahakian said that is unacceptable and that the independence and security of Nagorno-Karabakh are not up for debate or negotiation.
Nalbandian similarly dismissed Mammadyarov’s statements as misleading on March 18, saying that the Azerbaijani “exceptions” outweigh provisions acceptable to Baku. He accused Baku of seeking to “distort the essence of the negotiating process.”
Nalbandian and Mammadyarov held separate meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday. Karabakh reportedly topped the agenda of the talks.