By Emil Danielyan and Gevorg Stamboltsian in Prague
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan appeared to have rekindled hopes for a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with what officials described as “constructive” talks held in the Russian city of Saint-Petersburg on Friday.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and his recently elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, met for the first time on the sidelines of a summit of former Soviet states. International mediators hoped that they will kick-start the Karabakh peace process which stalled following the recent presidential election in Armenia.
The two leaders started and ended the talks in the presence of their foreign ministers and the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. According to Sarkisian’s office, the talks took place in a tête-à-tête format for one hour. It said Foreign Ministers Eduard Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov met separately both before and after the presidents’ meeting.
“The Armenian side finds constructive the results of the first Sarkisian-Aliev meeting held in Saint-Petersburg,” the Armenian president’s press office said in a statement. It said the two leaders presented their views on how to resolve the conflict and instructed their ministers to continue the negotiation process mediated by the Minsk Group co-chairs.
According to the statement, it was also agreed that the co-chairs will visit Armenia and Azerbaijan again by the end of this month in an effort to further narrow the parties’ differences over a framework peace accord put forward by the mediators last November.
Both Nalbandian and Mammadyarov said the talks were “constructive” and “positive” as they spoke with journalists in Saint-Petersburg. The Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, also appeared to be satisfied with the meeting.
“Judging from what the presidents have just told us, the mood was positive and constructive,” Bryza told RFE/RL by phone. “The two presidents decided to continue the process within the framework of the Minsk Group and the proposals which we made in Madrid [in November 2007.]”
Bryza did not rule out the possibility of another Aliev-Sarkisian encounter in the coming months. “It depends on how much progress the foreign ministers will make with the help of the co-chairs,” he said.
(Presidential press service photo)