YALTA–Ukraine (Reuters–RFE/RL)– Armenian President Robert Kocharian said on Saturday he had made progress in settling conflicts with the leader of Azerbaijan during talks at a summit in Ukraine’s resort of Yalta.
"We did meet. I think the discussion was very interesting–and this was another step forward in the negotiating process. This is progress," Kocharian told reporters of his meeting with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev late on Friday–reported Reuters.
Kocharian declined to give details of the meeting–held as the two leaders attended a summit of Baltic and Black Sea state leaders. Armenia was not formally involved in the conflict but has provided military and political support for separatists.
The two leaders have started these series of direct and private meetings trying to resolve the decade-long conflict between Armenia’s and Azeris on the issue of the Armenian populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh that has declared its independence from Azerbaijan.
In a crowded press conference in Yalta Saturday–Kocharian voiced satisfaction with the meeting–without saying much about the actual negotiations. He stated that there were no prior agreemen’s to meet in Yalta–but the decision was made earlier on Friday during talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
"It is too early to speak of results"–said Kocharian but every such meeting–at any level is a step forward. He pointed out that the Armenian and Azeri speakers of parliament had met last week in Berlin–and the defense ministers would also hold talks very soon–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Armenia’s foreign minister Vartan Oskanian told the correspondent of the Armenian national television that there were no concrete results from his talks with his Azeri counterpart Tofiq Zulfugarov–but he is satisfied with the meeting–also reported RFE/RL.
He recalled that Azerbaijan has rejected the latest OSCE Minsk group proposal to settle the conflict based on a "Common State" formula–and Armenia also has reservations but their discussions were aimed at finding some common ground.
Aliyev–who had left Yalta before the end of the summit–told the meeting late on Friday: "Demonstrating good will–we are ready to grant Nagorno-Karabakh the highest level of self-governance within Azerbaijan."
Kocharian said his next meeting with Aliyev was scheduled for October in Ukraine–during a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Another meeting would be held in Turkey–at the summit of European rights body the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–he said
President Kocharian had also met earlier with Georgian president Eduard Sheverdnadze–discussing a range of issues aimed at improving and expanding bi-lateral relations. According to the Caucasus Press–the two presidents emphasized the importance of the upcoming meeting of the prime ministers of the three South Caucasian states to be held in Tbilisi in the context of establishing stability in the region.