The official, Davit Babayan, said the conflict’s resolution will remain elusive as long as Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership is excluded from direct Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations. He also stressed that Russia can not single-handedly broker a peaceful settlement.
“Russia is showing the international community that it is able to take the initiative in the Caucasus,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service from Stepanakert, commenting on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s plans to host fresh talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in Saint-Petersburg this week.
“In order to have a breakthrough here, there has to be a restoration of the proper negotiating format -- Armenia, Karabakh and Azerbaijan -- and the involvement of other mediating sides, notably the United States and France,” he said. “As long as these preconditions are not in place, I don’t think there will be any breakthrough.”
Despite regular visits to Stepanakert by the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) has not been directly involved in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks for over a decade. Azerbaijan refuses any direct contacts with the Karabakh Armenians, saying that the disputed territory is controlled by Armenia.
The mediators have repeatedly assured the authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert that the Karabakh Armenians will play a major role at a later stage in the peace process. The NKR leaders regularly state that no peace deal can be put into practice without their consent.
Babayan claimed that the planned trilateral meeting in Saint-Petersburg will focus not so much on the Karabakh peace process as broader “peace and stability in the region.” He said the three leaders will also discuss implications of Iran’s deepening standoff with the international community over its controversial nuclear program.
Officials in Baku, Moscow and Yerevan have not yet commented on their expectations from what will be the first Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in nearly five months.