By Armen Zakarian
International mediators will visit Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan shortly after next month’s Azerbaijani presidential election with peace proposals that could prove “decisive” for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a Russian diplomat announced Wednesday.
Yuri Merzlyakov, Russia’s new chief Karabakh envoy, said he and the U.S. and the French co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will put the finishing touches on the plan at a meeting in Vienna on Monday.
“I am not prepared now to disclose the essence of those proposals. You can call them new or modified,” Merzlyakov told reporters in Yerevan after talks with President Robert Kocharian, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian.
“The parties’ attitude towards the proposals with which the co-chairs will arrive here in late October or early November will probably be decisive,” he added without elaborating. Nor did he say whether they will be based on agreements reportedly reached by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in 2001.
Details of Merzlyakov’s meetings with the Armenian leaders were also not made public. Kocharian was only quoted by his press service as saying that Armenia remains committed to a peaceful settlement of the dispute and is “ready for constructive negotiations.”
The Russian negotiator arrived in Yerevan the day after meeting in Stepanakert with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. He visited Azerbaijan last week.
The mediators are keenly awaiting the outcome of the October 15 presidential vote there which is expected to formalize the handover of power from ailing Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev to his son Ilham. Armenian leaders have implicitly welcomed the dynastic succession, saying that Ilham Aliev can build on the progress made by his father during numerous face-to-face talks with Kocharian.