By Karine Kalantarian
International mediators hope that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet again and achieve a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process shortly after the Armenian parliamentary elections, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday.
“Their desire is to have the presidents meet after the parliamentary elections as early as possible,” he said. “That is why they want to register as much progress at the ministerial level as possible before the president’s meeting.”
The French, Russian and U.S. mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group have indicated that the period between May 12 parliamentary elections and next year’s presidential ballots in both Armenia and Azerbaijan represents another “window of opportunity” to resolve the Karabakh conflict. According to the group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, the parties are close to agreeing on the basic principles of a peaceful settlement proposed by the mediators.
Oskanian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov are scheduled to meet in Geneva on March 14 to continue their discussions on the remaining sticking points. The French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, was in Yerevan and Baku this week to discuss preparations for the talks. He is due to again visit the Armenian capital on Monday.
Oskanian appeared cautiously optimistic about the Geneva talks. “There are grounds for expecting a positive meeting, provided that the latest Azerbaijani accusations against Armenia are not aimed at creating obstacles and laying the blame on Armenia,” he told a news conference.
Oskanian also said that Yerevan and Baku have yet to work out all “modalities” of a future referendum of self-determination in Karabakh, the key element of the Minsk Group peace plan. That includes the questions of when the vote would be held and who would be able to participate in it, he said.
Armenian officials say the international community is ready to let Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population legitimize the disputed region’s secession from Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani leadership, for its part, insists that it will never come to terms with the loss of Karabakh.