By Ruzanna Khachatrian
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan will likely meet later this month to continue the thorny search for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict officials in Yerevan and Baku said on Tuesday.
According to Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, the meeting is “very tentatively” scheduled to take place in Moscow on January 23. A spokesman for his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov was quoted by Azerbaijani media as confirming the information.
The talks will presumably be attended by the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The mediating troika is pressing the parties to build on progress that was apparently made by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during their last face-to-face meeting held in Minsk on November 28.
President Robert Kocharian made it clear last month, however, that Yerevan will not cut any peace deals with Baku before the Armenian parliamentary elections due next month. Oskanian insisted on December 19 that the negotiating process has not been put on hold and will continue with “less publicity” in the coming months. The Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, was likewise reported to say that the mediators and the parties will continue to “work together quietly.”
Oskanian implied on Tuesday that a breakthrough can be achieved later this year. “I have repeatedly said that quite an interesting [peace] proposal is on the table,” he told a news conference. “Assuming that there is political will, one can expect serious progress in this process at any moment.”
Oskanian reiterated that further progress in the peace process hinges on Azerbaijan’s acceptance of the “Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination.” The Minsk Group’s current peace proposals seem to uphold that right, envisaging a future referendum on the disputed region’s status.
However, Azerbaijani leaders say they will never agree to Karabakh’s independence or unification with Armenia. In his New Year address to the nation, President Ilham Aliev said Baku can grant the Karabakh Armenians only “greater autonomy opportunities within Azerbaijan.” For his part, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Tahir Tagizade claimed Tuesday that their right to self-determination is not incompatible with Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.