By Ruzanna Kyureghian in Paris and Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said late Thursday that a team of American, French and Russian mediators did not unveil any new proposals on ending the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict when they met him in Paris earlier in the day.
The three co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe continue to ascertain positions of the conflicting parties before launching their fresh push for peace after the October 15 presidential vote in Azerbaijan, Oskanian told RFE/RL after the meeting.
“The co-chairs do not open their cards at the moment,” he said. “They are consulting with the parties and are in no rush to elaborate on the content [of their next initiative]. They want to visit the region immediately after the Azerbaijani elections and only then decide in which direction to lead the process.”
Oskanian said he conveyed to the mediators his “expectations” and the “limit of flexibility” which the Armenian side is ready to demonstrate.
The troika was scheduled to hold a separate meeting on Thursday with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev. News reporters cited Guliev as saying that he has no great expectations from it.
The meetings coincided with the official announcement that Azerbaijan’s ailing President Heydar Aliev is withdrawing from the presidential race in favor his son and heir apparent, Prime Minister Ilham Aliev. The latter is likely to win the presidential vote in what will be the first dynastic succession in the former Soviet Union.
Armenian leaders privately voice their support for the ongoing transfer of power in Baku. They hope that Ilham will build upon sweeping Karabakh agreements reportedly reached by his father and President Robert Kocharian. The two leaders were close to hammering out a comprehensive peace accord after U.S.-sponsored talks in Florida in April 2001. The Armenian leadership subsequently accused Aliev senior of backtracking on those agreement, the existence of which continues to be denied by Baku.
According to the Armenian Assembly of America, a well-connected lobbying group in Washington, the U.S. administration will press the younger Aliev to fall in with the next Minsk Group plan. “Administration sources now indicate that the U.S. would require strong assurances from Azerbaijan that a new peace agreement would be honored before again investing the time and prestige of the President and Secretary of State,” the Assembly’s executive director, Ross Vartian, said in a statement.
Oskanian said earlier that Armenia expects that the new peace proposals will not differ markedly from what was agreed upon at Florida. According to Armenian sources, those agreements would uphold Karabakh’s de facto independence from Azerbaijan and link it to Armenia with a land corridor.