By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Monday that he will fly to Paris early Tuesday for talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov which he hopes will salvage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
“I don’t know yet whether the negotiations will be direct or in the so-called proximity format,” he told reporters, adding that they were initiated by the American, French and Russian mediators.
The Paris meeting will come just one week after the failure by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach a framework agreement on Karabakh conflict during two days of intensive negotiations in Bucharest. The apparent collapse of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit, the second in four months, dealt a severe blow to the mediators’ efforts to find a solution to the conflict this year.
Oskanian insisted that there is still a chance for peace. “There are still unresolved problems,” he said. “But there are also difficult issues on which we had for years failed to agree but on which there is agreement now. So there is that positive element in the process.”
He declined to disclose those issues or give other details of the talks. Other Armenian officials have said implicitly that the summit did not result in a peace accord because of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev’s last-minute rejection of the mediators’ idea of enabling Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population to decide its status in a referendum. The referendum would reportedly take place at least a decade after the liberation of most Armenian-occupied territories around Karabakh.
Politicians and commentators critical of Armenia’s leadership have also raised questions about President Robert Kocharian’s commitment to this formula. The Yerevan daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” said on Saturday that Kocharian told senior Armenian officials after the Bucharest talks that he is relieved by Aliev’s alleged rejection of the peace plan.