By Emil Danielyan
French, Russian and U.S. diplomats trying to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict said on Saturday they have largely agreed with the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on how to breathe a new life into the stalled peace process.
Photo: Nikolay Gribkov (R), Rudolf Perina, Philippe de Suremain (L)
The three co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group touring the region spoke in Yerevan after what they described as a “very positive and useful” meeting with President Robert Kocharian. But the envoys, who held similar talks in Azerbaijan on Friday, were again vague on details of their latest initiative, leaving its outcome uncertain.
“We have projected further steps, about which we unfortunately can not inform you,” Russia’s Nikolay Gribkov told reporters.
“We hope we will be able to make some more concrete announcements or give you more information soon,” the chief U.S. negotiator, Rudolf Perina, said for his part. He added that the announcement will likely be made “within a week or so,” after the co-chairs’ meeting in Vienna with other members of the Minsk Group.
“I would add that we had a very good, very positive meeting with President Kocharian. It was very useful for our work,” Perina said.
Gribkov was equally satisfied with the meeting, saying that the mediators “liked it very much.” “Every meeting with Robert Sedrakovich [Kocharian] convinces us that he is a wise, balanced and responsible person who really cares about a rapid settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” he said.
Both men stressed that they brought to the region unspecified “new ideas” which do not amount to a new peace plan and are only designed to relaunch the peace process. They said they will discuss those ideas with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in Stepanakert on Sunday.
“In my view, the attitudes of both [Armenian and Azerbaijani] presidents towards our thoughts were quite constructive,” Gribkov said.
The envoys had no comment on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov’s suggestion that Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Heydar Aliev name special envoys to carry out Karabakh talks on their behalf.
Trubnikov, who is accompanying the troika on their latest tour, argued on Friday that this would put the talks on a regular basis. "It is difficult for us to be shuttle diplomats," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying in Baku.
Trubnikov avoided contacts with the press on Saturday. Armenian officials were also not available for comment.
The Russian deputy minister reportedly assured Aliev that the Minsk Group troika is not pressurizing Baku into accepting its peace proposals. He said the mediators are “not in a hurry” to get a peace deal even though they are mindful of presidential elections that are due to be held in both rival states next year.
Earlier this week Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev reiterated Baku’s unhappiness with the Minsk Group’s recent proposals, saying that the OSCE is unwilling to uphold his country’s territorial integrity. Guliev complained to the OSCE’s visiting chairman-in-office, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, that the co-chairs want Azerbaijan to take into account the status quo and accept Karabakh's de facto independence.
Gama said that agreements reached by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents during talks in Paris and the Florida island of Key West last year remain “the basis of the negotiations.” Gribkov indirectly confirmed this in Yerevan, telling journalists not to expect "anything revolutionary or dramatic” from the mediators.
Azerbaijan denies that any major agreements were reached last year. The Russian-language Azerbaijani daily “Zerkalo” commented that Gama’s statement called into question the veracity of Baku’s denial. “Assuming that ‘the Paris principles’ did actually exist, Azerbaijan subsequently abandoned them for some reason,” it said.