By Emil Danielyan
The weekend meeting in Russia between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan marked another important step towards the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Tuesday.
Oskanian said he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov will now try to build on progress made by Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev.
“True, no breakthrough was achieved during that meeting, but we do consider it positive and believe that the negotiations are following a positive course,” he told a news conference. “The most important thing is that the presidents’ meeting in Kazan enables the [foreign] ministers to continue their work. I think that there will be a meeting of the ministers in the near future. A visit to the region by the co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group is also possible.”
“I think that we have some work to do regarding the results of the presidents' meeting and that there is now new room for continuing the process,” Oskanian said, adding that he and Mammadyarov received relevant “instructions” from the two presidents. He did not say what those instructions are.
"Each meeting at the level of the presidents is a step forward, but it's still early to speak of serious progress," Mammadyarov told reporters on Monday.
International mediators and the United States in particular hoped the Kazan meeting will clear the final hurdle to a Karabakh settlement. It is not clear if Aliev and Kocharian lived up to their expectations.
It is widely assumed that the two leaders will not sign or announce any compromise agreements on Karabakh before the November parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and constitutional referendum in Armenia. Unpopular concessions could significantly strengthen opposition groups in both countries that are plotting fresh attempts to topple the ruling regimes in Baku and Yerevan.
Oskanian said the upcoming polls will have no bearing on the peace process. “We have not yet reached a point where we need to inform our publics about details,” he explained. “We are still not there. That is why it is not worth thinking about that.”
“We are simply not close to putting anything on paper. So nobody is thinking yet about the restrictive impact of the elections or the referendum on the negotiations,” he added.