The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet soon for the sixth time this year, international mediators said late on Friday at the end of a regular tour of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.
The American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group made the announcement after meeting President Ilham Aliyev in Baku. They were already received by Aliyev on Thursday before proceeding to Yerevan for similar consultations with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“In Baku and Yerevan, both presidents reiterated their commitment to continue their discussions, with the objective to make further progress toward reaching an agreement on the basic principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the troika said in a joint statement. “They accepted the proposal of the Co-Chairs to organize their next bilateral meeting, the sixth such meeting this year, before the end of November at a time and place to be confirmed.”
Neither president immediately issued any statements to that effect. Nor did their offices give details of their negotiations with the visiting envoys. The latter essentially avoided contacts with media during their latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy.
The co-chairs push for yet another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit suggests that the three mediating powers still hope to achieve a breakthrough in their protracted search for Karabakh peace before the end of this year. They hoped that Aliyev and Sarkisian will iron out their remaining differences over the basic principles at their last meeting held in Moldova less than a month ago.
The two leaders clearly failed to do that, with Aliyev describing the talks as “unproductive.” Sarkisian and other Armenian officials, for their part, have indicated in recent weeks that the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is still not on the cards.
The conflicting parties have continued to make differing interpretations of the settlement proposed by the mediators. An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman reportedly said on Friday that the principle of peoples’ self-determination incorporated into their peace plan does not call into question Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Karabakh. The Karabakh Armenians could only determine the extent of their self-rule within Azerbaijan, he said.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry swiftly brushed aside the claim. “Self-determination means self-determination and territorial integrity territorial integrity,” a ministry spokesman said in a statement. “If this wasn’t so, the United Nations would not number 192 member-states today.”