International mediators will again visit Armenia and Azerbaijan later this month to try to nudge their leaders closer to a long-awaited agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani media reported on Wednesday.
Citing the U.S. Embassy in Baku, the Day.az online journal said the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group are due to tour the conflict zone “in the middle of January.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. A ministry spokesman said late last month that no dates have been set yet for the next round of the mediators’ shuttle diplomacy.
The Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, told the Mediamax news agency on December 25 that he and his French and Russian opposite numbers will visit the region in early 2009 in an effort to build on “considerable progress” made by the conflicting parties. Bryza said they will specifically discuss preparations for the next meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.
The mediators hope Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliev will iron out their remaining differences on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the Minsk Group troika. Aliev and Sarkisian pledged to intensify the peace process after their last talks hosted by Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev in early November.
Aliev highlighted lingering Armenian-Azerbaijani disagreements on the proposed principles last week when he again stated that he will not accept any peace accord that stops short of restoring Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. He also told Azerbaijanis to be ready to win back the disputed territory by force “at any moment.”