By Emil Danielyan
The month-long uncertainty about the next round of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks continued on Friday, with official Baku announcing that they will likely take place in London on April 15 and Yerevan effectively denying that.
The potentially crucial talks between Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian, originally scheduled in Prague for March 2, were cancelled ostensibly due to the latter’s illness. No new date for the meeting has been set so far.
“A meeting will most probably be held in London on April 15,” Mammadyarov told the Azerbaijani Lider TV. “The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, the Armenian foreign minister and I will be there. Presumably there is no need for a one-to-one meeting [between the foreign ministers] now.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamlet Gasparian, confirmed that Oskanian will travel to London to meet with the group’s French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs. But he said it has still not been decided whether he will meet with Mammadyarov as well. “No agreement on the foreign ministers’ meeting has been reached yet,” he told RFE/RL.
Oskanian already met separately with the mediators in Vienna on March 15. He indicated on Tuesday that a meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents would be far more important at this stage. “Quite a lot of work has already been done by the ministers and it is time for the presidents to step in,” he explained.
Such a meeting could take place on the sidelines of a May 16 summit in Warsaw of the Council of Europe member countries. Both Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian are expected to attend it.
"The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia must use this window of opportunity to solve the conflict," the OSCE’s current chairman-in-office, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, said during a visit to Yerevan this week. A solution must be achieved “as soon as possible,” Rupel added.
Mammadyarov pointed out that the London talks will determine whether there is a need for the two leaders to meet. “If there is an issue left and needed to be discussed by the presidents, then they will hold a meeting,” he said.
The lingering uncertainty in the peace process comes amid more frequent ceasefire violations near Karabakh reported by the two conflicting parties of late. Mammadyarov blamed them on the Armenians. But the latter claim the opposite, with Oskanian suggesting this week that Baku may be preparing for an all-out war.