International negotiators trying to broker a peace deal on Nagorno-Karabakh met with President Robert Kocharian Monday, ending their four-day tour of the zone of conflict with further indications that next month's crucial Armenian-Azerbaijani summit will be postponed because of a slower-than-expected progress.
Minsk Group co-chairs inspecting Akhurian railway station on Armenian-Turkish border Sunday
Senior diplomats from France, Russia and the United States co-chairing the OSCE's Minsk Group on Karabakh told reporters in Yerevan that they held "productive" talks with Kocharian on their latest efforts to resolve 13-year territorial dispute. However, they announced no date for the next round of face-to-face talks between Kocharian and President Heydar Aliev, which had been expected to produce a long-awaited breakthrough.
The Russian representative to the Minsk Group, Nikolay Gribkov, indicated that the mediators will need more time to work out a new compromise plan acceptable to both parties. The plan is due to be drafted in time for the summit. Gribkov said on Sunday that the meeting, initially set for mid-June in Geneva, could be postponed until August or later.
His American counterpart Carey Cavanaugh, who had earlier saw a peace deal on the horizon, also sounded less optimistic about prospects for a peace settlement. Cavanaugh said Kocharian and Azerbaijani are now more ready to mutual compromise than their domestic publics.
"The path to peace is not a straight road, it is more like the road to Lachin," the US envoy added, referring to the twisting highway linking the disputed territory to Armenia.
The OSCE troika last month hosted a peace conference on Karabakh in Key West, Florida, renewing hopes for an imminent solution to the conflict. The mediators announced substantial progress after four days of "proximity talks."
But Cavanaugh declared on Sunday that "we are probably not as close now as at the end of Key West, because both sides are looking at things more closely."
The co-chairs visited Azerbaijan and Karabakh at the weekend, making their first-ever land crossing of the frontline separating the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces that have largely observed cease-fire since the end of their bitter war last seven years ago.
Meanwhile, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Naira Melkumian, on Monday expressed confidence that the new Minsk Group proposal will reflect official Stepanakert's position on how to settle the conflict. "The co-chairs have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to talk about Nagorno-Karabakh's subordination to Azerbaijan," she told RFE/RL in an interview. "This is not the way towards a officials in Stepanakert was the "forms and amount of international assistance" to the Karabakh that would be part of a post-conflict reconstruction in the region.
Hrach Melkumian, Hrant Aleksanian in Stepanakert