Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian met international mediators in Vienna to discuss ways of kick-starting the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and, in particular, organizing a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani summit, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
The United Nations General Assembly, meanwhile, passed a controversial resolution that refers to Karabakh as an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan. It also demands an “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces” from occupied Azerbaijani lands.
Oskanian promtply downplayed the resolution, saying that only 39 UN member states, most of them affiliated with Organization of Islamic Conference, voted for it, while over 150 other nations abstained or did not vote. “We question whether this resolution was intended to derail the negotiating process or whether [Azerbaijan] got the clear message and will return to the negotiating table to work on a negotatied, compromise lasting solution,” he said in a statement.
Oskanian said on Thursday that the first-ever face-to-face meeting Armenia’s Prime Minister and President-elect Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev could take place on the sidelines of a NATO summit to be held in Romania’s capital Bucharest on April 3-4. He said Sarkisian will take part in the summit at the head of an official Armenian delegation.
“If there is such proposal and if the Azerbaijani side agrees to it, the newly elected president will be ready to have his first contact with the president of Azerbaijan,” Oskanian told a news conference in Yerevan.
Aliev’s chief foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, said on Friday that the Azerbaijani leader is ready to meet his new Armenian counterpart. “If we receive such a proposal from the co-chairs and if the president of Azerbaijan takes part in the NATO summit, he will conside it,” Mammadov told the Azerbaijani news agency Trend.
The Foreign Ministry in Yerevan did not say if Oskanian reached any agreement on such a meeting with the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, visited Baku and Yerevan last week following the outbreak of worst fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near Karabakh.
The warring sides blamed each other for the deadly skirmishes that dealt a blow to the mediators hopes of brokering an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework on Karabakh this year. Bryza and his Russian and French counterparts sounded optimistic about chances of such an agreement during their most recent joint trip to the conflict zone in January. In a joint statement late last week, they urged Baku and Yerevan to “redouble their efforts to endorse the Basic Principles for the peaceful resolution of the conflict presented to the sides on the margins of the Madrid OSCE Ministerial in November 2007, and to begin as soon as possible the process of drafting a peace agreement on this basis.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed doubt on Wednesday that the conflict can be resolved anytime soon. "In the immediate future I don't know that Nagorno-Karabakh can get solved," she told a congressional hearing in Washington.