By Irina Hovannisian
The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday described as “positive and productive” the weekend meeting of the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijani and Russia but did not comment on chances of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement before the end of this year.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted the crucial talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts outside Moscow on Sunday. A joint declaration signed by them said Presidents Ilham Aliev and Serzh Sarkisian will instruct their foreign ministers to step up efforts to agree a “political resolution” of the Karabakh conflict.
“We believe that the signing of the declaration will give a serious impetus to further negotiations because it was stated that the Karabakh conflict must be resolved by political means, within the framework of the [OSCE’s] Minsk Group and on the basis of the Madrid proposals [made by the mediators in November 2007,]” a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan, Tigran Balayan, told RFE/RL. “We welcomed that initiative by the Russian president and find it important for activating negotiations,” he said.
Official Baku has also expressed its satisfaction with the Moscow document. “The signing of the declaration marked a historic moment in the conflict’s resolution and the start of a new process,” Aliev’s chief foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, told the Trend news agency on Monday.
But whether the conflict could be resolved before the end of this year remains unclear. When asked about chances of a breakthrough in the coming weeks, Balayan reiterated Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian’s calls last week for Azerbaijan to display a “political will” which he said is needed for settling the dispute.
Mammadov, on the other hand, insisted that the success of the latest international push for Karabakh peace primarily depends on the Armenian sides’ readiness to make concessions to Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, Matthew Bryza, the U.S. co-chair of the Minsk Group, told another Azerbaijani news agency, APA, on Tuesday that he and his Russian and French colleagues will jointly tour the conflict zone ahead of an OSCE ministerial meeting in Helsinki scheduled for early December. He said they will try to “help the parties agree on the next meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
The three co-chairs were not present at Aliev’s and Sarkisian’s face-to-face encounter at the Meiendorf Castle official residence outside Moscow. But they did hold separate talks with the two leaders there later on Sunday.
Bryza described the signing of the Armenian-Azerbaijani declaration as a “landmark event.” “The co-chairs of the Minsk Group needed that support from the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents to move the negotiating process forward faster,” he said.