By Emil Danielyan
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are optimistic about their chances of achieving a breakthrough on Nagorno-Karabakh at their weekend talks in Russia, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
The office of the department spokesman said in a written statement that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliev earlier in the day “in order to stress to them the importance that the United States attaches to their upcoming meeting in Kazan, and to express our hope that the two Presidents will make the compromises necessary in order to reach a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
“Both leaders were upbeat about the prospects for making progress,” the statement added.
Aliev’s press service cited Rice as saying that Washington will help the two leaders live up to great expectations from Saturday’s meeting which will take place on the sidelines of a summit of 12 former Soviet republics. Aliev also hopes that his talks with Kocharian will be productive, it said.
Kocharian’s office did not issue any written statements on the phone conversation. “They discussed the course of the settlement of the Karabakh problem, and Rice also attached importance to the process of constitutional reforms [in Armenia],” his spokesman Victor Soghomonian told RFE/RL.
According to the State Department, Rice expressed hope that “Armenia would make progress toward enacting a package of constitutional reforms now before the parliament.” But it was not clear if she urged Kocharian to make additional changes in his package of draft constitutional amendments that are demanded by the Armenian opposition.
The United States joined the Council of Europe and the European Union earlier this month in endorsing Kocharian’s constitutional package. A senior U.S. diplomat also urged the authorities in Yerevan to build a political consensus necessary for the success of the reform.