The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet this week for their first face-to-face talks on Nagorno-Karabakh of the new year, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Sunday.
Robert Bradtke, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, made the announcement during a visit to the Karabakh capital Stepanakert. He did not disclose the date and venue of the meeting.
Official Baku and Yerevan did not confirm the information as of Monday evening. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian flew to Moscow earlier in the day. He was scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
Bradtke traveled to Stepanakert from Yerevan where he discussed the current state of the Karabakh peace process with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on Saturday. Official Armenian sources gave no details of the talks. Nalbandian only told RFE/RL on Sunday “Bradtke’s approaches coincide with our approaches.”
The U.S. envoy is due to again meet Armenian leaders in Yerevan on Wednesday together with fellow Minsk Group co-chairs from France and Russia.
“As part of my own preparations for those meetings, I thought it was important to come to Karabakh to hear the views of the people of Karabakh and the authorities in Karabakh,” Bradtke told journalists after talks with the unrecognized republic’s president, Bako Sahakian.
He said the United States is determined to push the negotiating process further forward this year. “I can assure all of you that the United States will be working very hard in this new year to see that the people of Karabakh can have a future of peace and stability and prosperity,” he said.
Sahakian was quoted by his press office as telling the U.S. mediator that “the conflict can not be settled in the absence of a direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Artsakh.” The Karabakh leader also denounced Azerbaijan’s “bellicose rhetoric” and said Karabakh’s “independence and security are not subject to haggling.”
Karabakh Armenian leaders have made no secret of their serious misgivings about the mediators’ “basic principles” of a peaceful settlement that call for the liberation of virtually all Armenian-controlled territories in Azerbaijan proper that surround the disputed enclave. Some of them claim that the mediators have still not presented the framework accord to the authorities in Stepanakert.
Bradtke insisted, however, that the mediating troika regularly briefs them on its peace proposals. “I think information is being provided on the status of the negotiations and what is taking place in these discussions,” he said.