By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
Armenia and Azerbaijan said on Thursday that they have been presented with new proposals aimed at addressing their remaining differences on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace accord put forward by international mediators.
The foreign ministers of the two countries met in the presence of the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for nearly five hours in Serbia’s capital Belgrade late Wednesday. The talks took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization.
“We basically focused on the remaining differences in the co-chairs’ document on the basic principles [of a Karabakh settlement,]” Armenia’s Vartan Oskanian told RFE/RL the next day. “The co-chairs had some prepared views as to how those differences can be addressed. We’ve listened and taken note of the co-chairs’ views and we will bring those views to the attention of our presidents.”
Oskanian declined to go into details. The Azerbaijani side also declined to disclose those proposals, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Baku telling the Turan news agency that they concerned two of the eight key elements of the proposed peace deal. The official, Khazar Ibrahim, said the mediators are trying to "to bring the sides' positions closer."
Both Oskanian and Ibrahim said the troika will likely visit Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert after Armenia’s May 12 parliamentary elections. “The co-chairs most probably will visit the region and meet directly with our presidents to get their reactions to these particular views,” said the Armenian minister. “And on the basis of the results of that visit they will decide when and where to organize the presidents’ next meeting.”
The mediators hope that Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian will cut a framework peace deal before the start of campaigning for presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year.
The conflicting parties are discussing a gradual settlement of the Karabakh dispute that would culminate in a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh. The remaining sticking points reportedly include practical modalities of that referendum. Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna earlier this week, Oskanian said the parties are as close to resolving the Karabakh conflict as ever.
Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov appeared to have failed to make further progress during their previous face-to-face meeting held in Geneva on March 14
“I can simply say that compared to the Geneva meeting the atmosphere of the [Belgrade] meeting was much more relaxed,” said Oskanian. “It was well-intended and businesslike. Overall, it was a normal meeting.”