Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev insisted, however, that the talks were “unproductive.” “I must again point out that there is some, not very significant, progress on some issues,” he told Azerbaijani state television. “Unfortunately, the parties failed to reach agreement on the main issues under discussion.”
Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian met on the sidelines of a summit of former Soviet republics in Moldova’s capital Chisinau amid renewed hopes for a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process. As always, they spoke in a one-on-one format before and after being joined by the American, Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
Although no concrete agreement was announced after the three-hour talks, the mediators seemed satisfied with their outcome. “The meeting further promoted elaboration of the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” they said in a joint statement issued the next morning.
“The talks were constructive and serious, including an in-depth, line-by-line discussion of a number of points of the Co-Chairs' proposals,” the statement said. “The presidents asked the Co-Chairs to incorporate the results of the discussion into their proposals in advance of the next meeting between the two.”
Sticking to the confidentiality of the negotiating process, the mediators gave no details of those proposals as they spoke to journalists late on Thursday. “The discussions were serious and constructive,” Robert Bradtke was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. “They have agreed to meet again in the near future.”
According to Bradtke’s Russian opposite number, Yuri Merzlyakov, the next Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting will take place “relatively soon.” A separate statement issued by Sarkisian’s office, said both presidents “displayed a constructive mood” in what was their fifth face-to-face encounter in ten months.
The statement was in contrasted with Aliyev’s assessment of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit. The Azerbaijani leader blamed Armenia’s “non-constructive position” for what he called the parties’ failure to complete the “final phase” of the peace process. He also insisted on Karabakh’s return under Azerbaijani rule, something which is categorically ruled out by the Armenian side.
Moldova -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Serzh Sarkisina and Ilham Aliyev in Chisinau, 09Oct2009
It is not clear if Aliyev made the comments before or after he and Sarkisian held a trilateral meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday. Medvedev has personally arranged and mediated Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks over the past year. No details of the meeting were immediately made public.
"Solving Nagorno-Karabakh is a key issue. Advances are being made step by step and with every meeting the positions move closer," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Reuters as saying after Medvedev's conversation with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.
The mediators also insisted in Chisinau that there is no direct link between the Karabakh peace process and the ongoing efforts to normalize Armenia’s relations with Turkey. Turkish leaders have repeatedly stated that Ankara will not reopen the Turkish-Armenian border before a Karabakh settlement.
Citing these statements, Aliyev expressed confidence that “this will be the case.” “I believe in the statements by Turkey’s leaders and am confident that the Turkish-Armenian border will not be opened as long as the Karabakh conflict is not resolved,” he said.