By Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian sounded an optimistic note about this week’s meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan as he wrapped up an official visit to Moscow at the weekend.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev and his recently elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, are scheduled to meet for the first time in the Russian city of Saint-Petersburg Friday on the sidelines of a summit of former Soviet republics. They will try to make further progress towards finalizing a framework peace agreement drafted by U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
“We hope that the upcoming meeting in Saint-Petersburg between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will allow for the continuation of negotiations and that the two presidents will issue corresponding instructions to their foreign ministers,” Nalbandian said in an interview with Russia’s Vesti 24 television. “We are optimistic because there is really an opportunity to resolve the conflict.”
Nalbandian reiterated Yerevan’s overall acceptance of the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the mediators. “We are ready to continue negotiations on the basis of those proposals,” he said. “We believe that those proposals are a good basis for finding a solution.”
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian made similar assurances during his Friday talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Minsk Group plan, formally submitted to the conflicting parties last November, envisages a gradual solution to the dispute that would delay agreement on Karabakh’s status. Aliev and Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian apparently accepted most of the proposed principles, leading the mediators to state earlier this year that an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework peace deal could be cut in the course of this year.
However, the peace process stalled following Armenia’s disputed presidential election. Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov met in France last month in an effort to kick-start it. Both men described the talks as productive.