The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan promised “more decisive efforts” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict but announced no concrete peace agreement at an OSCE summit that began its work in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Wednesday. (UPDATED)
They only issued a joint statement that was also signed by the heads of the U.S., Russian and French delegations at the summit. It said Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev “reaffirmed their commitment” to seek a peaceful settlement based on international law and “basic principles” advocated by the three mediating powers.
According to the statement, the signatories “agreed that the time has come for more decisive efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” “They further agreed that a peaceful, negotiated settlement will bring stability and security and is the only way to bring real reconciliation to the peoples of the region,” it said.
The statement added that the mediators urged Aliyev and Sarkisian to “focus with renewed energy on the issues that still remain in the Basic Principles” and instructed U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group to “continue to work with the parties to the conflict to assist in these efforts.”
“We must also renew our efforts toward a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh based on basic principles elaborated under the auspices of the Minsk Group,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who heads the U.S. delegation at the two-day summit, said in separate remarks.
Clinton said the mediators continue to believe an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord must be based on six specific principles articulated by Presidents Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy in a joint July 2009 statement.
Among those principles is return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control and an “interim status” for the Armenian-populated disputed territory that would guarantee its “security and self-governance.” The proposed peace framework also envisages that Karabakh’s final status, the main bone of contention, would be determined through “a legally binding expression of will.”
The mediators and Medvedev in particular hoped that Aliyev and Sarkisian will overcome their disagreements over key details of the proposed settlement in time for the Astana summit. However, the content of the five-party statement suggests that they failed to do that.
Contrary to expectations, Aliyev and Sarkisian did not even meet at Astana. An Armenian diplomatic source, who asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the Azerbaijani leader cancelled his planned talks with Sarkisian and Medvedev “at the last minute.”
The source claimed that Aliyev did so because of “glaring contradictions” between the text of the five-party statement and his speech at the summit delivered later in the day.
In that speech, Aliyev lashed out at Armenia, again stating that it is seeking to prolong the Karabakh status quo and to turn peace talks organized by the Minsk Group co-chairs into a “meaningless process.” He also accused the Armenians of committing “war crimes and a genocide” against Karabakh’s Azerbaijani population during the 1991-1994 war.