By Emil Danielyan
Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have made ambiguous statements on the possibility of yet another meeting between their presidents which international mediators view as the last chance to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the coming months.
Azerbaijani media quoted Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Friday as not ruling out such an encounter on the sidelines of the upcoming weekend summit of former Soviet republics in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Mammadyarov said at the same that Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian have no plans yet to hold one-on-one talks there.
Aliev’s chief foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, was reported to say on Thursday that the latest round of peace talks mediated by the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group “did not create the need” for a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani summit.
For his part, Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, said the Armenian leader’s itinerary in Dushanbe does not contain a meeting with Aliev. Still, Soghomonian too did not exclude the possibility of such talks.
It was not clear if the Minsk Group co-chairs, who usually attend the opening sessions of Aliev-Kocharian talks, plan to travel to the Tajik capital. Earlier this week, they met separately with Oskanian and Mammadyarov in New York. No agreements were announced as a result.
The consultations came two weeks after the mediators’ most recent visit to the conflict zone. They expressed hope during the trip that Aliev and Kocharian will again try to iron out their remaining differences on a framework peace agreement put forward by the Minsk Group. The two men failed to do that when they last met in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg in June, all but dashing hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh conflict.
The chief U.S. Karabakh negotiator, Matthew Bryza, warned in Yerevan that Aliev’s and Kocharian’s refusal to meet again this year would raise questions about their commitment to mutual compromise. “If they don’t say yes, then you’ll wonder, ‘What are they thinking in the back of their mind? What are their plans? Are they really fully committed to reaching an agreement?’” he said.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Oskanian claimed that the conflicting parties are “inching towards resolution.” He praised the Minsk Group’s existing peace proposals for upholding “the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to determine their own future.”
Mammadyarov, for his part, urged the international community to respect his country’s territorial integrity and said he is confident that it will not allow the impending international recognition of Kosovo’s secession from Serbia to set a precedent for conflict resolution. “Armenia can say whatever it wants on the issue,” he said.
“We have no intention to use Kosovo as a precedent for our conflict, since that would contradict our own position that all conflicts are different,” countered Oskanian. “But at the same time, we won’t understand or accept the reverse logic – that if Kosovo is given independence, no other people can achieve self-determination. No one should tell us that there is a quota on liberty and security.”