The three nations spearheading the Karabakh peace process urged the conflicting parties to “complete this work as soon as possible” at the end of a two-day flurry of Karabakh-related diplomatic activity on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial conference in Athens.
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov held talks there on Monday and Tuesday in addition to separate meetings with senior American, French and Russian diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. They were joined later on Tuesday by Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Bernard Kouchner of France and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
In an ensuing joint statement read out by Lavrov, the five men noted the current “positive dynamic” in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “They agreed that the increasing frequency of these meetings has significantly contributed to an enhanced dialogue between the parties and forward movement toward finalizing the Basic Principles for the Peaceful Settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007,” read the statement.
The statement said Nalbandian and Mammadyarov reaffirmed their countries’ stated “commitment to work intensively to resolve the remaining issues” and cut a framework deal based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples.
Earlier in the day, the European Union called for an “appropriate combination” of these principles through Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, the current holder of the EU presidency. “We call again upon Armenia and Azerbaijan to take the necessary decisions to achieve a breakthrough with the endorsement of the Basic Principles proposed in Madrid on November 29, 2007,” Bildt told the OSCE conference.
Greece -- Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner (R) at the start of the 17th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Athens, 01Dec2009
Kouchner also mentioned the Karabakh dispute in his speech at the gathering, speaking of “significant progress” in the negotiating process. “Now is the time to make decisions and I exhort the two parties to seize upon the chance offered to them and finalize, without delay, the principles of settlement proposed to them,” he said.
Both Nalbandian and Mammadyarov stressed the importance of the five-party statement. The Armenian minister emphasized the fact that Azerbaijan signed up to the principle of self-determination that has long been championed by the Armenian side.
“I hope that there will also be a statement by the ministerial conference,” Nalbandian told journalists. “I hope it too will mention these three principles of non-use of force or threat of its use, self-determination and territorial integrity which we have pointed out for months.”
“Of course this is not yet a solution to the problem,” he added. “These are only the main principles that will form the basis of negotiations aimed at bringing the parties’ positions on the principles contained in the Madrid document closer to each other.”
“The more intensive the negotiating process is, the more points of convergence could be found,” Mammadyarov said for his part. “That is very useful for pushing forward negotiations and approaching the completion of discussions of the basic principles and the subsequent signing of a comprehensive peace accord.”
Neither minister would be drawn on possible time frames for finalizing the basic principles that envisage a gradual resolution of the conflict. Nor did they mention the possibility of yet another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in the coming weeks.
The two leaders have held six face-to-face meetings this year. According to the mediators, they made progress “in some areas” at their last talks held in Munich on November 22.