By Emil Danielyan
International mediators will step up their efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after next month’s presidential election in Azerbaijan, and Armenia expects that their new peace proposals will not differ markedly from the previous ones, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said Thursday.
But he cautioned that the success of the new initiative of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, led by France, Russia and the United States, remains an open question.
“It is true that there will be greater [Minsk Group] activity after the Azerbaijani elections,” Oskanian told a news conference. “But whether that activity will increase chances of a settlement is difficult to say.”
The top Russian representative to the group, Yuri Merzlyakov, announced last week that he and his French and U.S. counterparts will tour the zone of conflict in late October or early November with a peace plan that could prove “decisive” for a Karabakh settlement. He refused to disclose its content.
The three co-chairs were due to meet in Vienna on Monday to hammer out final details of the document. No information regarding the meeting has been reported thus far.
Oskanian said Yerevan is not yet aware of what they plan to submit to the conflicting parties, but suggested that their proposals will be based on agreements reached by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2001. “The co-chairs say that it will be a new version of the old proposals,” he said. “So it appears that there will be continuity with new emphases. ”
Those agreements, according to the Armenian side, would uphold Karabakh’s de facto independence by placing into a loose confederation with Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani leadership has rejected this formula in the past and insists on the restoration of its direct control over the Armenian-populated territory.
The mediators appear certain about the outcome of the October 15 vote in Azerbaijan which is widely expected to complete the handover of power from ailing President Heydar Aliev to his son Ilham. Some Armenian officials have said Yerevan will welcome the dynastic succession. They hope that the younger Aliev will be powerful enough to build upon the progress made by his father and President Robert Kocharian.
Further progress in the peace talks would also pave the way for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations sought by the United States and the European Union. Oskanian is due to meet with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on the fringes of a session of the UN General Assembly later this month. The previous Oskanian-Gul meeting held in May fueled speculation that Ankara may soon lift its economic embargo imposed on Armenia in 1993 out of solidarity with Azerbaijan.
Oskanian, however, said that talk of an imminent reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border has been “extremely exaggerated.” “I have never cherished great hopes in that regard,” he said, adding that his upcoming meeting with Gul will bring more clarity into the situation.