By Gevorg Stamboltsian in Prague
International mediators will visit Armenia and Azerbaijan early next week in yet another attempt to salvage the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said after meeting them in Brussels on Tuesday.
“We simply talked about how the existing disagreements can be overcome,” he told RFE/RL from the Belgian capital. “But there are no concrete agreements. The only hope is that during their visit to the region the mediators will reach some agreements with the leaders [of Armenia and Azerbaijan.]”
The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group held separate talks in Brussels with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Monday. No details of the talks were reported.
The co-chairs have been making last-ditch attempts to broker a framework peace agreement on Karabakh since the failure of the most recent meeting between Presidents Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev. Meeting in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg in early June, the two leaders all but dashed hopes for the signing of such an agreement before the start of campaigning for presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year.
Visiting Yerevan in early August, the chief U.S. Karabakh negotiator, Matthew Bryza, effectively admitted that the conflicting parties are unlikely to cut unpopular peace deals in the coming months. Still, he stated a few days later that Aliev and Kocharian could hold another potentially decisive meeting later this year.
According to Oskanian, the Armenian side will agree to such a meeting only if the mediators manage to bring the parties’ positions closer to each other during their trip to Yerevan and Baku. “Our president has never avoided such meetings,” he said. “But we don’t want to hold a meeting for the sake of a meeting.”
“If the mediators see, especially after their visit to Azerbaijan, a convergence of positions on unsettled issues, of course we will have to take that opportunity,” he added.
In Oskanian’s words, further progress in the peace process hinges on unspecified “courageous steps by Azerbaijan towards compromise.” The Azerbaijani side has taken no such steps since the Saint Petersburg summit, he said.
Azerbaijani leaders have blamed Armenia for the summit’s collapse, pointing to its insistence on upholding the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination. Aliev repeated on Tuesday that Baku will never recognize Karabakh’s secession from Azerbaijan. He also renewed threats to win back the disputed territory by force.