YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict agree on key elements of its peaceful resolution and can achieve a breakthrough in their protracted negotiations if they show greater understanding of each other’s concerns, according to a senior U.S. diplomat.
“One of the things I feel is important here as well is [that] the sides are probably closer to an agreement than they think they are. Because of the lack of trust, it makes it harder for them to see this,” Robert Bradtke, Washington’s chief Karabakh negotiator, told RFE/RL in an interview on Tuesday.
“They need to see this process as ‘There won’t be peace unless he gets something and I get something, and how can I get him something that he needs and how can he give me something that I need,’” he said. “That’s not easy to do. That’s not the way of thinking that we’ve seen so far.”
Bradtke argued that Armenia and Azerbaijan disagree on details of a framework peace accord put forward by the United States, Russia and France and known as the Basic Principles.
“I think the outlines of an agreement are there,” he said. “There are complications about the sequencing of steps toward a final settlement, about fleshing out some of the details, and as I say, there’s this lack of trust which makes it much more difficult to reach agreement.”
Bradtke, who co-chairs the OSCE Minsk Group with fellow diplomats from Russia and France, did not elaborate on the Armenian-Azerbaijani disagreements or divulge unpublicized details of the Basic Principles.
Earlier this month, the three co-chairs visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh and presented the parties with what they described as a plan of actions aimed at clearing the remaining hurdles to peace. They said the plan aims to “put into action” a joint statement that was issued by Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s president at their January 23 meeting in Sochi, Russia.
In that statement, Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev pledged to “accelerate the achievement of an agreement on the Basic Principles.” Observers believe, however, that presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year will complicate such a deal.
Bradtke insisted that the mediators could broker further progress in the months to come. “If we can move in this period ahead — in this year, particularly — to create this sense of common partnership in finding a peaceful solution [and] recognizing how to address the concerns of the other side, then I think we can make some progress,” he said.
Bradkte said the mediators will also continue trying to work out a mechanism for jointly investigating ceasefire violations along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the more volatile “line of contact” around Karabakh. “We continue to feel that there’s more that needs to be done to elaborate this mechanism in a way that it might actually be able to contribute to increasing stability along the line of contact and along the front lines,” he said.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian claimed last week that Azerbaijan rejected one such mechanism that was proposed by the mediating troika last year.