The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will decide next week whether their new summit on Nagorno-Karabakh, in doubt after the latest visit to the region by international mediators, will take place as planned in June. A spokeswoman for the Armenian foreign ministry told RFE/RL on Wednesday that Robert Kocharian and Heydar Aliev will make a final decision on the next, possibly decisive round of Karabakh peace talks on May 31, on the sidelines of a CIS summit in Minsk.
The meeting, initially scheduled for mid-June in Geneva, was due to discuss a draft peace accord on Karabakh to be put forward by French, Russian and US negotiators acting under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Some of the mediators co-chairing the OSCE's Minsk Group hoped that the two leaders will agree on the main points of a peace settlement in the Swiss city.
But in an indication of slower than expected progress in the peace process, the envoys said after their talks with Armenian, Azerbaijani and Karabakh leaders earlier this week that the meeting could be postponed. They were understood to imply that more time will be need for achieving a long-awaited settlement of the Karabakh conflict than they had expected.
The ministry spokeswoman, Dziunik Aghajanian, acknowledged that "additional difficulties" emerged during the negotiators' visit. She did not elaborate on those difficulties, saying only that Kocharian and Aliev will try to overcome them in Minsk.
Official Baku has toughened their Karabakh rhetoric in the wake of the co-chairs' visit, with President Heydar Aliev warning on Tuesday that there is a "growing public mood" in his country in favor of a military solution to the conflict. "It is natural that our public's dissatisfaction is increasing," the Azerbaijani TV station ANS quoted him as telling a visiting delegation from the European Union. "The patience of the Azerbaijani people has been exhausted," Aliev added.
In the words of Zardusht Alizade, leader of the opposition Social-Democratic Party of Azerbaijan, the 78-year-old president's chief concern now is to retain his tight grip on power. Alizade also told RFE/RL in a telephone interview that traditional rivalry between Russia, Iran and the West remains a major factor impeding a settlement.
Hrach Melkumian, Armen Dilanian in Prague