By Emil Danielyan
International meiators pressed the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to meet next week for potentially decisive talks on Nagorno-Karabakh as they began a new round of regional shuttle diplomacy on Monday.
The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group met Azerbaijani President Ilham in Baku and were due to proceed to Yerevan where they will be received by President Serzh Sarkisian on Tuesday. They are also scheduled to travel to Karabakh the next day.
Matthew Bryza, the group’s U.S. co-chair, was reported to tell journalists in the Azerbaijani capital that the mediators hope Aliev and Sarkisian will meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland scheduled for January 29-February 1.
“The meeting of the presidents depends on our negotiations in Baku and Yerevan,” Bryza said, according to Russian news agencies. “There is a great opportunity for such talks this month. We think and hope that the meeting of the presidents will take place.”
The mediators hope that Aliev and Sarkisian will bridge their differences on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the Minsk Group. The two presidents failed to do that when they last meet outside Moscow in early November. The conflicting parties have since continued to publicly take diametrically opposite positions on Karabakh, raising more questions about the conflict’s resolution any time soon.
Still, Yuri Merzlyakov, Russia’s chief Karabakh negotiator, insisted that an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework agreement may well be on the cards. “I suppose that if the parties demonstrate a political will, it will be possible to reach agreement on the basic principles and start working on a [more detailed] accord,” he said, according Interfax news agency.