By Emil Danielyan, Hovannes Shoghikian and Irina Hovannisian
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet in New York later this month to again attempt to salvage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, officials in Baku said on Thursday.
Azerbaijani media quoted a spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry, Tahir Tagizade, as saying that Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov will hold face-to-face talks on September 25-26 on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly. He said agreement on the meeting was reached during their separate negotiations with the American, French and Russian mediators earlier this week.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry declined to confirm or refute the information. Oskanian clarified later in the day that the meeting depends on the outcome of the upcoming UN General Assembly debate on the ethnic conflicts in Karabakh and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine succeeded on Wednesday in including the issue on the assembly agenda over strong Armenian objections.
“There will be a question mark over the meeting of the ministers until it becomes clear what happens at the UN,” Oskanian told reporters.
Still, one of his deputies, Arman Kirakosian, said separately that the New York talks are “likely” to happen. “The meeting, if it takes place, will give a positive impetus to the negotiations,” he said.
Oskanian first admitted the possibility of meeting his Azerbaijani counterpart in New York as he spoke to RFE/RL on Tuesday after two days of consultations in Paris with the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. He said the mediators still hope to broker a framework peace agreement in the coming months.
The Oskanian-Mammadyarov encounter could pave the way for another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh which the mediators hope will yield a long-awaited peace deal. President Robert Kocharian has said through a spokesman that he might meet Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliev on the fringes of a summit of ex-Soviet in Belarus slated for next month.
“If the negotiation process gets back on track and if there are positive trends, a meeting of the two presidents will be possible,” confirmed Kirakosian.
Armenia has long resisted UN involvement in the Karabakh peace process, insisting that the OSCE Minsk Group remain the sole mediating body. Oskanian warned this month that Yerevan will boycott further peace talks with Baku if the UN decides to step in.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry reaffirmed the threat on Thursday. A ministry spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, claimed that by raising the issue with the UN Azerbaijan is exposing its reluctance to accept the Minsk Group’s current peace plan that calls for a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh.
“If Azerbaijan’s purpose is to delay and postpone the settlement process within the OSCE framework with the intention of later transferring that process to other forums, that is categorically unacceptable for Armenia,” Karapetian said in a statement. “In that case, Azerbaijan must sit around the negotiating table with Nagorno-Karabakh.”