By Harry Tamrazian in Bucharest
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan again failed to reach a framework agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh during intensive negotiations in Bucharest on Sunday and Monday, all but dashing hopes for a speedy resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The two men made no statements to the media after they wrapped up their second meeting in the Romanian capital that began in the presence American, French and Russian diplomats spearheading the peace process and continued in tête-à-tête. They spoke fore more than three hours in the same format the previous night.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minster Elmar Mammadyarov, who accompanied Aliev admitted, that the two sides remain far apart on some key issues. “There is no change in Azerbaijan’s position and disagreements on how to resolve the conflict remain,” he said.
Steven Mann, Washington’s top Karabakh negotiator, sought to put a brave face on the apparent fiasco as he spoke to journalists on behalf of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. He said both Aliev-Kocharian meetings took place in a “good atmosphere” but refused to divulge any of their details. “The co-chairs are now going to meet among themselves to discuss the next steps in our work,” he said.
Mann also indicated that the mediators believe that the Karabakh conflict can still be resolved this year. “The co-chairs still believe that 2006 is the window to reach an agreement regarding Karabakh,” he said.
Asked whether Aliev and Kocharian made any progress towards a peace deal, the U.S. diplomat replied, “I would only say that we have had very, very detailed discussions.”
The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders underscored their lingering disagreements on Karabakh as they addressed a high-level forum of Black Sea nations in Bucharest earlier on Monday. “The people of Nagorno-Karabakh have implemented in practice the right to self-determination,” declared Kocharian. “It was done fully in line with the requirements of international law.”
“We believe that there is a need for effective efforts for a full-scale integration of the [Nagorno-Karabakh] Republic into the international community,” he added.
“Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is recognized by everyone and can not be a subject of negotiations,” countered Aliev.
The previous Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh, held at the Rambouillet castle near Paris in February, likewise ended in failure despite unusually upbeat statements made by the co-chairs in the weeks preceding it.
The mediators appeared to regard the Bucharest talks as their last chance to broker a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh dispute in the near future. Senior diplomats from France, Russia and the United States sounded cautiously optimistic about peace prospects as they visited Baku and Yerevan late last month.
But Kocharian effectively dampened those expectations on Friday, questioning the Azerbaijani leadership’s commitment to Karabakh peace. Speaking to journalists, he pointed to Aliev’s continuing “militaristic statements.”
Azerbaijani officials were quick to hit back. "On the one hand, (Kocharian) agreed to such a meeting, but on the other, he is already anticipating no results,” Aliev’s top foreign policy aide, Novruz Mamedov, said, according to the Associated Press. “I think that Kocharian wants to just protect himself."
(Itar-Tass-Photolur photo: Romanian President Traian Basescu pictured with Kocharin and Aliev during the Black Sea summit.)