ST. PETERSBURG (RFE/RL)–The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan overcame some of their remaining disagreements over the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, international mediators said on Friday, echoing statements made by the conflicting parties.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev met in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg on Thursday for talks brokered by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. Their foreign ministers said afterwards that the two men made further progress towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict even if they did not achieve a breakthrough.
“The conversation took place in a constructive atmosphere and resulted in positive steps that narrowed the differences between the two countries on a number of the Basic Principles of the settlement,” the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said in a joint statement.
“Because of these positive developments in their discussion, both Presidents asked the mediators to continue their shuttle diplomacy and to open a new and major subject outlined by the Madrid Document which, according to their views, still remains the basis of the negotiation,” they said. “In addition, the two Presidents agreed on the mediators’ proposal for the Presidents to continue their meetings in the nearest future, if possible in July.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service last week, the chief U.S. Karabakh negotiator, Matthew Bryza, said Aliyev and Sarkisian are unlikely iron out all of their disagreements on “a handful of remaining principles” in Saint-Petersburg and will therefore need to hold more talks “relatively quickly.” “Based on their conversation in Prague, I do believe that a breakthrough can happen at Saint-Petersburg and/or shortly thereafter,” Bryza said.
Neither president made any public statements after the talks. Sarkisian’s office issued only a written statement saying that the meeting took place “in a constructive atmosphere.”
“The parties agreed to move forward in the negotiating process,” the statement said. It added that they instructed their top diplomats and the mediators to continue their efforts to narrow Yerevan’s and Baku’s disagreements and to prepare for yet another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit.
“Although we cannot talk about a breakthrough or substantial progress today, the parties are moving forward and have agreed to continue negotiations,” Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian told journalists. Nalbandian’s Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, gave a similarly positive assessment of the talks.
“What we heard today [from the presidents] is creating a basis for the continuation of our work,” Mammadyarov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said he believes that the Saint-Petersburg talks were more productive than the previous Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting held in Prague a month ago.