By Emil Danielyan
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have agreed to international mediators’ proposal to name special negotiators who will represent them in the OSCE-sponsored negotiations on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani sources reported on Friday.
The Turan news agency said, citing a statement by the OSCE Minsk Group, that deputy foreign ministers of the two conflicting states will meet with the group’s American, French and Russian co-chairs once in every two or three months to discuss the 10-year search for peace. It said the first such meeting will be held in Prague in May.
The report has not been confirmed by other news sources. Officials in Yerevan were not available for comment on Saturday.
According to Turan, the troika issued a statement in Vienna following its latest tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who accompanied the co-chairs during the trip, argued that the appointment of the special Karabakh envoys would put the talks on a more regular basis. "It is difficult for us to be shuttle diplomats," he said in Baku last week.
The mediators indicated that they discussed with the conflicting parties ways of reinvigorating the stalled peace process. The chief U.S. negotiator, Rudolf Perina, promised reporters to “make some more concrete announcements” after the Vienna meeting.
Meanwhile, Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian expressed on Saturday confidence that Azerbaijan will not attempt to regain control of Karabakh by military means despite its repeated threats. “I am convinced that there will not be hostilities anymore,” he told journalists in the Armenian town of Echmiadzin.
Sarkisian argued that Azerbaijan will not resort to military action anytime soon because it is well aware of the strength of the Armenian armed forces and the international community’s strong opposition to renewed fighting in Karabakh. President Robert Kocharian similarly warned earlier this week that Baku will face almost certain defeat if it goes to war over the disputed enclave.
In a related development, about two thousand people took part in an opposition rally in Baku Saturday to protest against the government of Preisdent Heydar Aliev. The demonstators accused Aliev of failing to improve social conditions in the country and showing weakness in the Karabakh conflict, the Associated Press reported. They urged the government to create a commission to investigate the problems facing the Azerbaijani national army, such as corruption and poor morale.