Official Baku signaled on Tuesday a toughening of its position on the
settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, setting preconditions for the next internationally-sponsored Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said the next round of peace talks, originally scheduled for mid-June in Geneva, will not take place if "certain demands" of the Azerbaijani side are not met by the French, Russian and US co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
"If these demands are not taken into account the Geneva talks could be put off," Guliev was quoted by the Azerbaijani Trend news agency as telling reporters in Baku. The official did not specify what those demands are.
Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev, for his part, said that it is the
Armenians that must compromise first because of their continuing occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Aliev told a visiting parliamentary delegation from the European Union that the international community should not expect "unilateral concessions" from Baku, according to Turan.
The remarks followed the latest visit to the zone of conflict by the
mediators who indicated that more time will be need for a peace settlement than they had thought. Cautious statements made by Carey Cavanaugh, the chief US negotiator, and his French and Russian counterparts after their meeting with Aliev on Friday contrasted with their earlier upbeat predictions of a peace deal. US officials hoped that the Minsk Group's new plan on Karabakh could be signed as early as next July.
The mediators, however, said at the end of their four-day tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh that the Geneva will likely be postponed until August or later. It is not clear when their new peace proposals will be submitted to the parties for consideration.
Results of the visit were on Tuesday discussed in Yerevan by President Robert Kocharian and his Karabakh counterpart, Arkady Ghukasian. Official Armenian sources gave no details.
Emil Danielyan in Prague