By Armen Zakarian
The next round of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks has been postponed by at least one week because of Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s continuing illness, his spokesman clarified on Wednesday.
Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov were scheduled to hold a potentially crucial meeting in Prague on Wednesday. News of its postponement was confirmed by Yerevan on Tuesday. Azerbaijani sources said it will likely take place in Paris later this week.
But an Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Serob Bejanian, said this is now out of question. “The Mammadyarov-Oskanian meeting has again been postponed due to Mr. Oskanian’s health condition,” Bejanian told RFE/RL. “Mr. Oskanian has to continue his treatment in Yerevan for at least one more week.”
“Precise dates for the meeting will be set afterward,” he added.
Mammadyarov, meanwhile, was due in Prague on Wednesday for talks with Czech government officials.
The Azerbaijani ANS radio quoted him as saying that he has already received a copy of a report drawn up by a fact-finding OSCE mission that visited Armenian-controlled territories of Azerbaijan last month. The OSCE officials were investigating Azerbaijani allegations about illegal resettlement of Armenians in the occupied territories.
Mammadyarov declined to comment on the report, saying that its findings will not be publicized until March 16. An Azerbaijani diplomat in Vienna on Monday accused Armenia of illegally sending 23,000 settlers to those lands. "Such steps of Armenia represent a blatant violation of international humanitarian law and totally contradict the
Geneva conventions," Parviz Shahbazov told a news conference.
Shahbazov also accused Bernard Fassier, France’s chief Karabakh negotiator who accompanied the OSCE team on the trip, of justifying “the result of Armenian aggression” and diminishing the scale of the settlement campaign.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Fassier said that that, with the exception of the Lachin district providing for the shortest overland link between Karabakh and Armenia, Armenians’ migration into the occupied territories seems to be largely spontaneous and improvised. "Contrary to what many people thought, there doesn't seem to be a deliberate, large-scale plan to settle those areas,” he said.