A senior United States representative mediating the ongoing peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has said that “the Karabakhi Armenian representatives were at the [negotiating] table until a few years ago when the Armenian side, Yerevan, decided to represent them.”
Matthew Bryza, who jointly with representatives from Russia and France chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, told RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, however, that the Karabakhi authorities still “need to participate directly in the negotiations” at some point and expressed a hope that this will happen “sooner rather than later”.
But the diplomat stressed there is a discussion that “has to ensue among the parties and they have to come to a mutual agreement.”
“To bring them [Karabakhi authorities] back in, there needs to be a mutual agreement, and we hope that will be forthcoming,” said Bryza. “They do participate indirectly now. We listen what their opinions are. We, of course, have to incorporate those views into the negotiations because if you don’t, it’s impossible to get people who will be affected by the solution to accept it. So, they have to accept it in the end.”
At the same time, Bryza called it “not constructive or accurate” to talk about one side or the other taking ‘the first step’ after an agreement is finalized.
“The basic principles call for both sides to take steps simultaneously and there is a sequence of steps that both sides will take at different times. So, everything has to be done together, with both sides,” he said.
Bryza recalled Ilham Aliev’s statement made in Moscow in early July in which the Azerbaijani leader foresaw that once the final peace agreement was signed, five territories would be returned to Azerbaijan immediately and two would be returned later.
“So, what he [Aliev] is laying out there is that there would be this immediate return of territories, but some would come back later. At the same time, Azerbaijan will be taking steps also, which includes this commentary about the corridor, and he’s made some allusions or suggestions about status, and we, the co-chair countries, talked about an interim status for Karabakh. So, all that has to happen at the same time. Even though elements of the overall process will be implemented in a staged way.”