By Emil Danielyan
International mediators kept up their efforts to salvage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process on Thursday, with a senior U.S. diplomat meeting with Armenian leaders on yet another visit to Yerevan.
Steven Mann, Washington’s chief Karabakh negotiator, refused to speak to reporters as he emerged from talks with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The Armenian Foreign Ministry also declined to give any details of the meeting. A brief statement by its press service said the two men discussed “prospects for continuing negotiations” aimed at resolving the Karabakh conflict.
Mann met President Robert Kocharian later in the day and will proceed to Baku on Friday. His talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev will likely touch upon the latter’s upcoming visit to Washington during which he will be received by President George W. Bush.
According to unconfirmed media reports, the U.S. envoy arrived in Yerevan from Moscow where he met with the fellow Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Yuri Merzlyakov. The group’s third, French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, visited the Armenian and Azerbaijani capitals last week.
The mediators have said that the flurry of diplomatic activity is aimed at arranging another potentially decisive meeting of the presidents of the two South Caucasus nations. Fassier said the mediating troika hopes that Aliev and Kocharian will meet in June or July at the latest.
The planned Aliev-Kocharian meeting may thus take place ahead of the Group of Eight summit in the Russian city of Saint-Petersburg scheduled for July. The United States, France and Russia, which is chairing G8 for the first time this year, are all members of the group of rich nations.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said late Wednesday that Washington wants the conflicts in Karabakh and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union to be included on the summit agenda. "On the agenda we suggested today, for the first time, should be these ... issues pertaining to conflicts very close to Russia's borders," Burns told a news briefing during a visit to Moscow.
The formal G8 agenda proposed by Russia does not include a specific mention of the ex-Soviet conflicts.
(Photolur photo: Steven Mann.)