By Emil Danielyan
International mediators have renewed their calls for Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign up to their proposed framework agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict before the end of this year.
In their second statement in less than two weeks circulated late Monday, the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group again urged the presidents of the two countries to display the “political will” for mutual compromise.
“The Co-Chairs continue to believe that the proposals developed through the past two years of negotiations hold the best potential for achieving a just and lasting settlement of the conflict,” they said. “They strongly believe that it is now time for the two Presidents to take the initiative for achieving a breakthrough in the settlement process based on these principles, and they stand ready to assist the parties to conclude an agreement if the Presidents indicate they are prepared to do so.”
“Although no additional meetings between the sides under the auspices of the Co-Chairs are planned for the immediate future, they will be ready to reengage if the parties decide to pursue the talks with the political will that has thus far been lacking,” added the mediators.
They already made similar calls in a statement that was submitted to the OSCE’s decision-making Permanent Council in Vienna on June 22 and made public last week. That statement for the first time officially disclosed the essence the peace deal drawn up by the Minsk Group.
The mediating troika reiterated its key points in the follow-up communiqué: “The principles are based on the redeployment of Armenian troops from Azerbaijani territories around Nagorno-Karabakh, with special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin districts (including a corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh), demilitarization of those territories, and a referendum or population vote -- at a date and in a manner to be decided through further negotiations -- to determine the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Armenia finds this formula largely acceptable and says President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev agreed to the referendum option during their face-to-face talks earlier this year.
Azerbaijan’s reaction has been more ambiguous. Its deputy foreign minister, Araz Azimov, claimed earlier on Monday that the mediators disclosed and “took out of context” only some provisions of the proposed peace deal. Aliev, for his part, stated last week that he will “never let Nagorno-Karabakh be separated from Azerbaijan.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry insisted on Tuesday that the mediators’ statements do reflect the current state of affairs in the negotiating process. “The reality is very clear – the Minsk Group co-chairs, with their second confirming statement, presented the principles for resolution which are on the negotiating table, together with their assessments,” a ministry spokesman, Vladimir Karapetian, said.
The Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, told RFE/RL late last month that he and his French and Russian counterparts have decided to take “a bit of a pause throughout the summer” to see whether Aliev and Kocharian have the political will to make “tough compromises.” The mediators now see “no sense in us trying to arrange another round of presidential meetings,” he said.