By Astghik Bedevian
The next meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which international mediators hope will yield a breakthrough on Nagorno-Karabakh, could take place early next month, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday.
“The co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group] believe that the presidents should meet again,” he told reporters. “They have already made relevant proposals and are trying to agree them with the presidents. But neither the venue nor the date [of the meeting] has been ascertained yet.”
President Robert Kocharian’s spokesman, Victor Soghomonian, told RFE/RL that final agreement on the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit is likely to reached by Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov later this month. The two ministers are due to hold talks on the sidelines of high-level Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg.
Preparations for Kocharian’s next face-to-face encounter with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev seem to be at the center of the latest flurry of diplomatic activity by the Minsk Group’s American, French and Russian co-chairs. Earlier this week they held two-day consultations in Moscow that were followed by a separate visit to the conflict zone by Bernard Fassier, the French mediator. Fassier met with Kocharian in Yerevan on Thursday and arrived in Baku the next day.
Oskanian said the success of the next Aliev-Kocharian meeting depends on Azerbaijan. “Appropriate steps are expected from the Azerbaijani side. If those steps are taken, I think we will be able to move forward. If not, it will be hard [to make further progress],” he said without elaborating.
Oskanian also claimed that U.S. President George W. Bush warned Aliev against attempting to resolve the conflict by force during their White House talks on April 28. “I think Azerbaijan was clearly told in Washington that a military solution is not an option, and we find that positive,” he said. “Azerbaijan will be ready for compromise only if rules out that option.”