By Aza Babayan in Moscow
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow on Tuesday to resume their discussions on an international plan to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The fresh talks between Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov again took place in the presence of the American, French and Russian mediators acting under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group flew to Baku later in the day to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy that highlights their persisting hopes for a quick solution to the Karabakh dispute.
Oskanian presented the Moscow talks as a follow-up to the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents’ November meeting in Minsk which appeared to have brought the parties closer to a peaceful settlement. “On the basis of the presidents’ meeting in Minsk we tried to discuss the second layer of some principles, some details as a first step to deepen the negotiations,” he told RFE/RL.
“In that sense, the talks proceeded in a positive atmosphere. I can't say that there were serious movements [forward] in addition to what we had before. That said, I think it was a productive effort, and we must continue the talks,” said Oskanian.
Mammadyarov avoided contacts with media before returning to Baku together with the mediators. The latter are scheduled to meet Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and proceed to Yerevan on Wednesday.
According to Oskanian, Aliev and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian are unlikely to hold another face-to-face meeting before the Armenian parliamentary election due in May. Kocharian has made it clear that he will not sign any unpopular peace accords with Aliev before the polls. Diplomatic sources say the parties are far more likely to cut a peace later this year, before presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2008.
Meanwhile, another Armenian soldier has been shot and killed in a reported skirmish with Azerbaijani soldiers. The Karabakh military said on Tuesday that the soldier, Mher Movsisian, died of wounds sustained on Sunday in the Armenian-controlled Fizuli district southeast of the disputed territory. "The tragic incident on 21 January proves that Azerbaijan's statements on the need to peacefully resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict run counter to its action on the ground,” it said in a statement.
Another Armenian serviceman was reportedly shot dead at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on Monday.
In a related development, Aliev's top military adviser reiterated Tuesday Baku’s threats to resolve the dispute through force. "We are ready at any moment, on the order of the commander in chief, to carry out our military task and liberate the occupied territories," Vahid Aliev said, according to the Associated Press.