By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow on Friday for fresh negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh which they both described as useful, despite announcing no agreements on any of the sticking points hampering a peaceful settlement.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov agreed to meet again later this month to present their governments’ responses to “new thoughts” voiced by international mediators during the talks. The meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in Paris on October 24-25, he said.
This means that the presidents of the two countries will not meet on the sidelines of an October 17 summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Belarus. The possibility of such a meeting was earlier not ruled out by Baku and Yerevan.
“A meeting of the president may take place only if there is progress on the content [of the mediators’ current peace plan] at the ministerial level,” Oskanian said in a telephone interview. “So we should wait for the next meeting [of the foreign ministers] to see if it is worth holding a meeting of the presidents.”
Oskanian refused to specify what the conflicting parties continue to disagree on or disclose the new ideas which were put forward by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. “I can’t call them proposals because they were made verbally and in the context of the overall discussion,” he said. “We need to take an in-depth look at them.”
According to Mammadyarov, the Armenian-Azerbaijani disagreements center on the status of Karabakh and the liberation of Azerbaijani territories surrounding the disputed enclave. The Turan news agency quoted him as describing the Moscow talks as “constructive” and saying that the two sides decided to “take a break until October 24.” Mammadyarov gave no further details.
“Overall, I find the meeting useful, in the sense that we have more clarity,” said Oskanian. “There will be a continuation. But I don’t know what will happen next.”
The Moscow talks, which also involved Oskanian’s and Mammadyarov’s separate meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, came just days after the co-chairs’ latest tour of the conflict zone aimed at reviving the stalled peace process. The envoys admitted that they are trying to set the stage for another potentially decisive Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh.
Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian failed to strike a widely anticipated peace deal during their last two face-to-face encounters earlier this year. The fiasco all but dashed hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh dispute.
Peter Semneby, the European Union’s special representative to the South Caucasus, suggested on Thursday that both parties are now “playing for time.” He argued in particular that Azerbaijan seems to be banking on its massive oil revenues to “richer and militarily stronger.”
“I am not particularly optimistic at this moment,” Semneby said in an earlier interview with the Mediamax news agency. “I don't want to put blame on any side, but I think that both Armenia and Azerbaijan should think about the dangers and costs of not reaching a solution.”