Armenia views the latest round of Karabakh talks with Azerbaijan as “useful and important”, according to its foreign minister Edward Nalbandian.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev reaffirmed their commitment to continue the search for peace in Karabakh through negotiations after a meeting in Russia’s southern city of Astrakhan on October 27 hosted by Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev.
Sarkisian and Aliyev also agreed on an exchange of prisoners of war as well as the bodies of servicemen and civilians killed in recent clashes as the first step in a series of confidence-building measures.
In their joint declaration published following the trilateral meeting the leaders of the two rival South Caucasus nations also stated their readiness to stick to this humanitarian approach also in the future.
“The presidents also instructed their foreign ministers to continue negotiations and try to find an agreement around the basic principles until the summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) due to be held in [Kazakhstan’s capital] Astana in early December,” Nalbandian said in a statement disseminated by the ministry’s press service.
At a press conference in Yerevan on Thursday, spokesman for President Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) Eduard Sharmazanov said the role of the trilateral meeting in Astrakhan should not be “overestimated” and added that its usefulness will be measured by whether Azerbaijan honors its pledges or not.
Sharmazanov did not rule out, however, that the sides could come to a certain agreement before the OSCE summit in Astana. But he stressed that such a thing could happen only “if Azerbaijan shows a truly constructive position.”
After the talks in Astrakhan, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed a hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan could move closer to resolving their differences in the current negotiations.
“We have come a certain way, which gives grounds to hope that if the sides work well over the next month ... then by the time of the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan on December 1-2 we could reach an agreed variant of common regulation principles,” the Russian leader said.
But the HHK spokesman pointed to two difficulties in the process that he said need to be overcome before an agreement on such principles could become possible.
“Azerbaijan must pursue a constructive policy and secondly the Karabakh side must become a party [to negotiations] here,” Sharmazanov said. “We cannot achieve any progress without considering the opinion of the Karabakh side.”
Meanwhile, Levon Zurabian, a senior member of Armenia’s main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK), believes that the frequency of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks mediated by Russia shows that such a trilateral format has acquired “more content” as compared to the process mediated directly by the OSCE Minsk Group.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun) on Thursday Zurabian said that the latest statement by Medvedev “shows that Russia is making serious steps to resolve the conflict.”
“Such a statement is another proof that the issue is high on the international agenda, and I think that there is a high likelihood that there will be some progress in Astana,” the HAK member said.
Russia co-heads the OSCE Minsk Group together with the United States and France.
In the past two years, the Russian president has met the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times.
The first such meeting in November 2008 resulted in a declaration in which Armenia and Azerbaijan stated their commitment to seek a negotiated peace to end the dispute.
Since then the sides have repeatedly accused each other of trying to scuttle the peace process.