By Armen Zakarian
A team of international mediators will visit Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh later this month but will again submit no formal peace proposals to the conflicting parties, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Thursday.
“Negotiations at the level of presidents and foreign ministers have not yet reached a point where the co-chairs have enough material to put something on paper,” Oskanian said. “We are still not there and I don’t expect that the co-chairs will bring anything written during their visit.”
It will be the first round of joint shuttle diplomacy by the French, Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group in seven months. The Russian representative in the troika, Yuri Merzlyakov, told RFE/RL last week that the mediators are currently working on a new peace plan that would try to reconcile Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s diametrically opposite strategies of ending the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. He said it would combine a “step-by-step” settlement of the conflict preferred by Azerbaijan with a single “package” accord demanded by the Armenian side.
Merzlyakov mentioned no possible time frames for the drafting of the new plan. The mediators were present at the most recent meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers held in Prague on June 21. According to Oskanian, their upcoming trip will have a largely “consultative” character.
Oskanian was speaking at a joint news conference in Yerevan with Heikki Talvitie, the European Union’s top envoy in the South Caucasus. Talvitie, on a regional tour of the region, reaffirmed the EU’s intention to play a greater role in the international efforts to end the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. He said he maintains regular contacts with the Minsk Group co-chairs.
“I have the mandate to assist in this process,” Talvitie said, adding that the EU is ready to support “confidence-building measures” between the parties.
Talvitie on Tuesday paid his first-ever visit to Karabakh in his current capacity. He discussed in Stepanakert prospects for conflict resolution with the leadership of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.