By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Wednesday that he does not plan to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov during a fresh and repeatedly delayed round of Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks in London later this week.
He also played down new peace proposals that have reportedly been put forward by international mediators.
Azerbaijani officials and Russia’s chief Karabakh negotiator, Yuri Merzlyakov, have said that Oskanian and Mammadyarov will meet in London on Friday in the presence of the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group. Merzlyakov told RFE/RL last week that the two men will discuss a framework peace deal drafted by the troika.
However, Oskanian insisted that he and Mammadyarov plan no face-to-face encounters and will instead hold separate “proximity talks” with the co-chairs. He also said that talk of a new Karabakh peace plan is “very exaggerated.”
“We are still not at a point where it is possible to come up with some package [of peace proposals] based on the results of our negotiations,” Oskanian told a news conference. “But it is true that the co-chairs need to know the presidents’ opinion about several questions. I don’t know if those several questions can be called a package.”
Oskanian did not deny that the London talks will determine whether Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian will meet in Moscow or Warsaw next month. He had noted earlier that an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit would be far more important than further meetings between the foreign ministers.
Merzlyakov likewise said that that an Aliev-Kocharian meeting could give a decisive boost to the peace process. “The co-chairs believe that a political decision is required at the highest level,” he added.
But Oskanian sounded less upbeat on prospects for peace, saying that the parties have only agreed what to discuss. “This is also progress,” he said. “In the past, one or another party was refusing to even discuss a particular issue. But when we go into details we see that our positions are still very far apart.”