Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev met in Munich for their sixth face-to-face encounter this year amid lingering international hopes for a near-term solution to the Karabakh conflict. They left the four-hour meeting, partly attended by the American, French and Russian mediators, at the French General Consul's residence there without talking to reporters.
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group did not announce a breakthrough in the negotiating process during an ensuing news conference and in a joint written statement issued afterwards.
The statement described the talks as “constructive.” “In some areas, progress was made,” it said. “At the same time, some issues still remain open. The Presidents instructed their foreign ministers to continue working with the Co-Chairs on these matters.”
Germany -- OSCE Minsk group co-chairs at a press conference, Munich, 22Nov2009
“Today we are of the opinion that some important progress has been reached,” Bernard Fassier, the French co-chair, told journalists. “But of course at the same time we identified some difficulties.”
“Today’s meeting has been particularly long because very constructive, detailed and in-depth discussions took place between the two presidents on all the basic elements that have yet to be agreed on,” he said. “Some of these elements were discussed for the first time in such a detailed and deepened manner.”
Fassier and the other co-chairs refused to elaborate on those issues and the “difficulties” hampering the signing of an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the Minsk Group. The French diplomat said only that the mediators have “a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months.” Their next step will be to arrange a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial conference to be held in Athens on December 1-2, he said.
Aliyev raised the stakes ahead of the Munich talks, saying that their failure to produce results would leave Azerbaijan with no choice but to try to solve the conflict by force. “Azerbaijan is spending billions on buying new weapons, hardware, strengthening its position on the line of contact,” Aliyev said in comments broadcast on Saturday. “We have the full right to liberate our land by military means.”
The mediators disapproved of the threat. “Our governments in Moscow, Washington and Paris are of the opinion that war is not an option,” said Fassier.
“We have told the presidents that at this delicate moment of negotiations it’s better to refrain from making disproportionate accusations towards each other and especially not to talk about the possibility of a forcible solution to the issue,” Yuri Merzlyakov, the Russian mediator, said for his part.
Sarkisian condemned Aliyev’s remarks through a spokesman on Monday. Samvel Farmanian, the presidential press secrterary said they “testify to Azerbaijan’s unconstructive stance” in the negotiations.
In a written statement sent to the Armenpress news agency, Farmanian also warned that Yerevan could formally recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic as an independent state if Baku resumes large-scale hostilities in the conflict zone. “If the peace talks end and hostilities start, nothing will prevent the Republic of Armenia from recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence,” he said.