By Karine Kalantarian
President Robert Kocharian may hold yet another face-to-face meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev later this year to try to salvage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, his spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.
Aliev and Kocharian again failed to live up to unusually high expectations of a breakthrough during their intensive negotiations held in Romania’s capital Bucharest on Sunday and Monday. The talks were widely seen as the last realistic chance of finding a solution to the Karabakh conflict this year. American, French and Russian diplomats spearheading the negotiating process have warned that failure to do so would keep the conflict unresolved until at least 2009.
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group insisted on Tuesday that the signing of a framework peace accord in 2006 remains “both imperative and achievable.” “The Co-Chairs continue to believe that the basic principles they have identified and proposed to the parties for settlement of the conflict offer an equitable basis for such a resolution,” they said in a joint statement. “They regret that the parties have not yet come to agreement on these principles.”
Neither the mediators nor the conflicting parties have officially made public those principles. But information leaks by some of them suggest that the mediators are pushing for a gradual conflict resolution that would culminate in a referendum in Karabakh.
Aliev’s top foreign policy adviser, Novruz Mamedov, told reporters in Baku on Tuesday that the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders could again meet before the end of this year. Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, confirmed the information. But he told RFE/RL that another Aliev-Kocharian encounter would make sense only after a detailed “discussion and analysis of the situation” by the Minsk Group co-chairs, their visit to the region and a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.
The mediating powers have yet to announce their next joint steps.