By Emil Danielyan
The European Union believes that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved in the near future despite international mediators’ failure so far to achieve a breakthrough in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, according to a senior official representing the EU.
“The [OSCE] Minsk Group and its three Co-Chairs have been working hard for a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and we are confident that, with the full engagement of the parties, a solution can be reached in a foreseeable future,” Foreign Minister Luis Amado of Portugal, current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, said on Thursday.
Amado was speaking at a meeting of the OSCE’s decision-making Permanent Council in Vienna. He did not elaborate on his cautious optimism.
The Minsk Group’s American, French and Russian mediators were scheduled to meet in the Austrian capital on Friday to discuss their next steps. Two of them, Yuri Merzlyakov and Bernard Fassier, held talks with Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian in Paris on Monday. The talks reportedly focused on ways of kickstarting the peace process after the most recent meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents held in Saint Petersburg on June 9.
The mediators hoped that Presidents Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev will pave the way for the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework agreement on Karabakh before the end of this year. But the two leaders failed to make any progress in the talks, all but ending hopes for the conflict’s resolution before presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year.
In his speech, Amado reaffirmed the EU’s full support for the OSCE’s long-running efforts to broker solutions to the conflicts in Karabakh and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union. He said peaceful settlements of the secessionist conflict in Georgia and Moldova should not infringe on the territorial integrity of those countries. The Portuguese minister did not evoke the principle of territorial integrity with regard to the Karabakh dispute.
The Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, said earlier this week that the mediating powers favor a Karabakh settlement based on a “compromise” between the principles of territorial integrity and peoples’ right to self-determination. The group’s existing peace proposals seem to allow for international recognition of Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan.
In an interview with the online version of the German magazine Der Spiegel published on Thursday, Kocharian again ruled out the possibility of Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule. He also said that he believes the Armenian-populated disputed territory should eventually form an “asymmetrical confederation” with Armenia.