By Emil Danielyan
International mediators have called on the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to meet again and try to achieve a breakthrough on Nagorno-Karabakh this year, while questioning their commitment to mutual compromise.
In a written statement, the U.S., Russian and French mediators confirmed that Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian failed to iron out their “remaining differences” on a framework peace agreement proposed by the OSCE Minsk Group at their last meeting in Saint Petersburg. They warned that failure to eliminate those differences before the start of the 2008 presidential election campaign in both South Caucasus states would nullify substantial progress made by the conflicting parties in the last few years.
“We take due note of the parties' recent statements of their willingness to continue the negotiations on the basis of what has been developed over the past years,” the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group said after a meeting in Vienna on Friday. “We urge them to give life to these statements in the limited time remaining and to make resolute efforts to consider again the fairly distributed benefits of the solution embodied by the proposed basic principles.”
“To that end, the Co-Chairs are ready to assist the parties in the preparation for their next summit, at the first opportunity, in the coming months,” added their statement.
Officials in Baku and Yerevan have not ruled out the possibility of another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit before the end of this year. Agreement on it would have to be reached by the foreign ministers of the two countries. It is not clear if any talks between them are planned for the coming weeks.
The mediators cast doubt on Aliev’s and Kocharian’s willingness to make “courageous decisions” now. “The Co-Chairs recognize that preservation of the status quo after thirteen years of "no peace-no war" in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict may seem less difficult for the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan than the mutual compromises that will lead to an equitable and lasting settlement of the conflict and, ultimately, to a new era of peace and prosperity for their people,” they said.
In a passage that appears to have been primarily addressed to Aliev, the Minsk Group troika deplored “militaristic statements threatening use of force and creating the dangerous illusion that war is an option for resolution of the conflict.”
The mediators also criticized Thursday’s “so-called presidential elections” in Karabakh. “Recalling their statements with respect to previous votings in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Co-Chairs reiterate that, like all other members of the international community, their countries do not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state, and such "elections" should not have any impact on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” they said.