By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian on Wednesday implicitly blamed Azerbaijan for the failure of this month’s Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that Baku seems to be backtracking on some of the understandings reached by conflicting parties earlier.
“Azerbaijan is showing clear signs of a change of position, a tendency to renege on some agreements. The first such signs were visible at St. Petersburg,” he said, referring to the meeting between Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian held in Russia’s second largest city on June 9.
Oskanian was careful not to explicitly accuse Baku of torpedoing the peace process, though. “We have to wait and see Azerbaijan’s further steps to judge whether there is a toughening of its position or a broader policy change,” he said. “It’s a bit early to draw conclusions.”
The French, Russian and US mediators hoped that Aliev and Kocharian will bridge their remaining differences and pave the way for the signing of a framework peace accord proposed by them before the end of this year. However, the two leaders failed to do that for reasons that are not fully clear. With presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year, the Karabakh dispute will likely remain unresolved at least until 2009.
A diplomatic source privy to the peace talks told RFE/RL in St. Petersburg that the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents disagreed on the pivotal issue of Karabakh’s future status. The source said Aliev demanded no references be made to the status in the text of the peace accord, while Kocharian insisted on the holding of a referendum of self-determination in the disputed territory.
Oskanian refused to confirm or deny this. He also dismissed Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov’s reported claims that the St. Petersburg meeting failed to yield a breakthrough because Yerevan asked for “time out” in the peace process.
“Because there were signs at St. Petersburg that the Azerbaijani side has reneged on some agreements, I think that with such statements Azerbaijan is trying to go on offensive and shift the blame,” Oskanian told a joint news conference with Robert Simmons, NATO’s visiting special representative to the South Caucasus.
Simmons urged both sides to continue the difficult search for a mutually acceptable settlement and again ruled out NATO’s direct involvement in the process spearheaded by the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. “We believe it’s important for both parties to find a negotiated solution to the crisis,” he said.
The mediators have still not said whether they intend to make another push for Karabakh in the next few months.