By Hrach Melkumian and Anna Saghabalian
Senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union spoke Tuesday of a “window of opportunity” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after the presidential election in Azerbaijan following separate talks with Armenian leaders.
The OSCE’s rotating chairman-in-office, Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and a high-level EU envoy held separate meetings in Yerevan with Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Karabakh counterpart Arkadi Ghukasian.
Scheffer told reporters afterwards that international efforts to settle the conflict were the main theme of his “very substantive conversations.” He urged Kocharian and Azerbaijan’s newly elected president, Ilham Aliev, to press ahead with a search for a compromise solution now that they are not constrained by electoral politics.
“I said to the president that I sincerely hope that the elections which were held in this
country some time ago and the very recent elections held in Azerbaijan…will open a window of opportunity to resume the talks on Karabakh,” Scheffer said. He said he will “convey exactly the message” to Aliev when he meets the latter in Baku on Wednesday.
“President-elect Aliev and the Armenian president should be bold and try to get the process off the ground again,” the Dutch minister added before proceeding to Georgia on the second leg of his regional swing.
The OSCE serves as a largely ceremonial umbrella structure for a team of U.S., Russian and French negotiators that have been trying to broker a mutually acceptable peace accord. The troika is due to tour the zone of conflict in the coming weeks with new peace proposals. Scheffer, who will soon take over as the new secretary general of NATO, said he did not discuss them with Kocharian and Ghukasian.
The dispute with Azerbaijan was also high on the agenda of the Armenian and Karabakh leaders’ talks with Heikki Talvitie, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus who is also touring the three regional states. Talvitie likewise noted that the post-election situation in Armenia and Azerbaijan bodes well for a breakthrough on Karabakh. “The position of the new Azerbaijani president will be very important for the future of the region,” he said.
The EU envoy also emphasized that the presidents of both countries must be “able to negotiate” on Karabakh, in a further sign that the EU is unwilling to question their legitimacy. Both Kocharian and Aliev won elections this year that were strongly criticized by Western observers.
(Photolur photo: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.)