Azerbaijan on Monday officially responded to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposals aimed at salvaging the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
International mediators, meanwhile, discussed Armenia’s response to those proposals with President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov handed a corresponding letter from President Ilham Aliyev to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov during their meeting in Moscow. Neither minister disclosed the letter’s content at a joint news conference held after the talks.
Medvedev made those unpublicized proposals after failing to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework agreement at the last Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting which was hosted by him in the Russian city of Kazan late last month.
“We have no doubts that the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is one of the priorities of the regional agenda … We will continue our efforts in that direction,” said Lavrov.
Official Yerevan has yet to formulate its position on the way out of the impasse proposed by Moscow. The issue featured large during Sarkisian’s talks on Monday with the visiting U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
“We expect to receive the Armenian side’s response very soon,” Igor Popov, the group’s Russian co-chair, told journalists before the talks.
“This has been a very active period of efforts by the mediators, by our leaders to try to move forward, to achieve a framework for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Popov’s American opposite number, Robert Bradtke, said for his part.
“I think we have to be very careful not to jump to any conclusions or assess too quickly the results of all that diplomacy,” added Bradtke. “We’ll see over the coming weeks the results of the efforts that have been made.”
Bradtke went on to stress the importance of “the close cooperation among all three of our countries.” He said the United States supports Russia’s active mediation efforts.
Bradtke, Popov and the group’s French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, met with Aliyev in Baku on Friday.
In a joint statement issued later on Monday, at the end of their latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy, the co-chairs said they “reiterated to both Presidents the importance of reaching agreement on the Basic Principles” of the conflict’s resolution put forward by the mediating powers.
“They emphasized that now is the time to demonstrate the political will needed to bring lasting peace, security, and reconciliation to the peoples of the region,” said the statement.
Lavrov told reporters that the conflicting sides continue to disagree on some of the proposed basic principles. He said there are “not many” remaining sticking points but they are of “pivotal importance.”
Aliyev last week signaled Baku’s dissatisfaction with some of the peace proposals made by the mediators over the past year. “Sometimes these proposals changed the essence and the basic principles of negotiations, which we have conducted for the last seven years,” he said.
Speaking in Moscow, Mammadyarov again suggested that the parties start working on a comprehensive Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord before reaching agreement on the basic principles. “I think that we should start discussing a legally binding document such as the peace treaty,” he said. “The time is ripe for that.”
But Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian rejected the idea as he met with the Minsk Group co-chairs. He said it runs counter to “both the logic of the negotiating process and the mediators’ position.”