After two hours of face-to-face discussions, the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliev, were joined by their foreign ministers and the three co-chairmen of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The co-chairmen were expected to make a statement on the meeting later.
The Moscow meeting between Sarkisian and Aliev comes amid growing international hopes for a breakthrough in the long-running conflict.
On the sidelines of the G8 summit in L’Aquila last week, the presidents of France, Russia, and the United States -- the three countries that jointly co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group -- urged the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan “to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement” on the most recent draft of the so-called Madrid Principles.
That joint statement listed six of those principles proposed by the mediators as a basis for further negotiations. They, in particular, call for the “return of the territories surrounding Karabakh to Azerbaijani control” and “future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will.”
Domestically, Sarkisian has faced some pressure several political groups, notably from the hard-line Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).
Earlier this week, Dashnaktsutyun called for the resignation of the foreign minister in the Sarkisian cabinet and urged Sarkisian himself not to sign any document based on the Madrid principles in Moscow. Dashnaktsutyun said it considered those principles as damaging to the interests of Karabakh and Armenia.
Meanwhile, President Sarkisian emphasized on Wednesday that he wouldn’t sign any document during the Moscow talks.
Furthermore, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Thursday traveled to Stepanakert where he had a two-hour-long meeting with Karabakh President Bako Sahakian.
Last week, in addressing a large Dashnaktsutyun-hosted pan-Armenian forum in Stepanakert, Sahakian called for his unrecognized republic’s status of a party to the ongoing negotiations with Azerbaijan. That was followed by an official statement from Karabakh’s foreign ministry and a statement by a group of political parties expressing a similar standpoint.
After meeting Sahakian, Nalbandian said Armenia acknowledged that Karabakh should be a full participant in the negotiations.
“And this is a necessity and also a guarantee of the success of the peace process,” Nalbandian emphasized.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will host another meeting between Sarkisian and Aliev in Moscow on July 18.