International mediators visited Baku on Friday to start preparations for more talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents which they hope will lead to a framework peace accord on Nagorno-Karabakh next year.
The American, French and Russian diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said they met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to “follow up” on his last meeting with Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian held in Munich on November 22.
In a joint statement, the mediators said they also intend to visit Yerevan in early January. “These visits will prepare the way for further meetings between the two presidents in 2010 to finalize the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” they said.
Aliyev and Sarkisian held six face-to-face meetings this year and reportedly narrowed their differences over the basic principles. Their foreign ministers reaffirmed the two sides’ “commitment to work intensively to resolve the remaining issues” after two-day negotiations with the mediators held in Athens last week.
In a joint statement issued there, top diplomats from the United States, Russia and France urged Baku and Yerevan to “complete this work as soon as possible.” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he is confident that this will be done “in the coming months.”
The statement, also signed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani ministers, said the conflict’s resolution should be based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force or threat of force, territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples. The conflicting parties made different interpretations of those principles, however, with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov speaking of “self-governance for Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan.”
The Armenian side says, on the other hand, that under the proposed settlement, Karabakh’s population would be able to vote for independence, reunification with Armenia or return under Azerbaijani rule.