By Astghik Bedevian
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to hold their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines on a summit of former Soviet republics that will take place in Saint-Petersburg, Russia on June 7, Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said on Thursday.
Nalbandian expressed hope that President Ilham Aliev and his new Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, will make further progress towards a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Let us hope that this meeting will open new doors for the continuation of negotiations and the peace process,” he told reporters.
The announcement came one week after Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov met in Strasbourg to discuss ways of kickstarting the process. Both men sounded satisfied with the results of their talks attended by the U.S., French and Russian mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
Nalbandian reiterated that Armenia believes that the talks should continue on the basis of basic principles of a Karabakh settlement that were formally submitted to the conflicting parties last November. Those envisage a gradual solution to the dispute that would delay agreement on Karabakh’s status, the main bone of contention. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev and Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian apparently accepted most of those principles, leading the mediators to state earlier this year that an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework peace deal could be cut in the course of this year.
“The pivotal issue in the negotiations is the question of Karabakh’s status which is due to be solved by means of a plebiscite that would allow the population of Karabakh to freely express its will,” said Nalbandian.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry said that one of its soldiers was shot dead by Azerbaijani forces in an unspecified section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact on Thursday morning. A ministry statement said the 19-year-old conscript, was wounded in the abdomen and died in hospital soon after.