By Armen Zakarian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian announced on Wednesday that he will meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart later this month for talks which should finally clarify whether Baku is ready to revive agreements on Nagorno-Karabakh reached three years ago.
Oskanian said the meeting will take place in Prague on March 29 in the presence of the American, French and Russian mediators leading the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He said he hopes Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev will officially state “from which point Azerbaijani is ready to continue negotiations.”
Guliev said last month that Baku reserves the right to restart the peace process “from scratch,” again denying any major understandings reached by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in Paris and the Florida island of Key West in 2001. The statement came after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s remark that he is not in a hurry to embrace a compromise deal because he believes the Armenians are more interested in a quick solution to the Karabakh dispute than his oil-rich nation.
Oskanian reiterated Yerevan’s warning that Aliev will have to negotiate only with the Karabakh Armenians if he finally decides to walk away from the agreements reportedly reached by his late father and predecessor Heydar and Armenia’s s Robert Kocharian.
The announcement of the Prague meeting came at a news conference that followed Oskanian’s talks with the OSCE’s visiting chairman-in-office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy. Passy also met with Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian as well as the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkady Ghukasian. The Karabakh conflict was a major topic of the discussions.
Ghukasian was skeptical about chances of a breakthrough in the stalled peace talks in the near future. “The Azerbaijani leadership’s position is very destructive and in these circumstances one should not anticipate a quick solution,” he told RFE/RL after the meeting.
Ghukasian also insisted on Stepanakert’s direct involvement in the process, which is strongly opposed by Azerbaijan. “I don’t think that the meeting in Prague will be meaningless, but I repeat that this problem can not be solve without Nagorno-Karabakh’s participation,” he said.
Speaking in Baku on Tuesday, Passy said that the OSCE will continue the active mediation but added that the onus is on Armenia and Azerbaijan to end the dispute “with mutual compromises.”
“The OSCE is not capable of miracles and can't impose a ready solution,” he said. “History teaches us that with conflicts time always works against us. The later a solution is found, the more painful it may be for the people of the region."
(Photolur photo: Oskanian after the meeting with Passy.)