By Emil Danielyan
Next month’s meeting in Russia between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan could mark a “turning point” in the long-running international efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a high-ranking U.S. official said on Wednesday.
“There will be a meeting in August of both presidents and it can potentially be a turning point,” U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky told reporters in Baku. “We certainly would want to hope and see it go in a positive direction that does lay a foundation for resolution.”
U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed similar hopes and expectations as they wrapped up their last tour of the conflict zone on July 15. They confirmed reports of substantial progress made by the conflicting parties in recent months, saying that a peace deal could be cut by the end of this year.
“I understand that the discussions that have taken place thus far have moved in a very constructive and positive direction,” Dobriansky said. “Our interlocutors who are directly involved with this issue … have indicated that they are cautiously optimistic.”
The U.S. official was speaking during a visit to Baku shortly before meeting with President Ilham Aliev. Azerbaijan’s official Azertac news agency did not mention Karabakh among the issues which it said were discussed by Aliev and Dobriansky.
Aliev and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian are scheduled to meet in the Russian city of Kazan on August 29 on the sidelines of a summit of ex-Soviet states. Their encounter will be preceded by a meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.
Details of the peace accord currently discussed at the peace talks have still not been officially made public. Some Armenian officials have said privately that at the heart of it is the idea of a referendum on Karabakh’s status that would take place after the liberation of Armenian-occupied territories in Azerbaijan proper. But Azerbaijani officials implicitly deny this.