U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was briefed on the results of the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Russia during separate talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held over the weekend.
Clinton met with the two men on the sidelines of an annual conference on global security that took place in Munich, Germany. She made no public statements after those meetings.
In a short statement, Aliyev’s press office said the Azerbaijani leader and the chief U.S. diplomat had a “broad exchange of opinions on the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.” It did not elaborate.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Nalbandian and Clinton “discussed in detail the latest developments in the negotiating process of the Karabakh settlement” and, in particular, Aliyev’s January 23 meeting with President Serzh Sargsyan that was hosted by their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in the Russian city of Sochi. Nalbandian shared her with her details of the summit, a ministry statement said.
A senior U.S. State Department official told U.S. journalists ahead of the Munich Security Conference that the Karabakh issue is “something the Secretary takes a personal interest in.” “The Secretary wants to talk to both sides about the results of that [summit] and the follow-on from that and how we can help move the process forward,” the official said.
In joint statement with Medvedev issued after the Sochi talks, Aliyev and Sarkisian did not announce progress towards an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on the Basic Principles of the conflict’s resolution jointly drafted by the United States, Russia and France. They only “expressed readiness to accelerate the achievement” of such a framework peace deal.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there is still “a whole series of issues that remain to be agreed” by the conflicting parties. This was a further indication that a breakthrough in the long-running talks is unlikely in the coming months.
The Sochi statement insisted that the nearly one dozen Aliyev-Sarkisian meetings organized by Medvedev since late 2008 have brought the parties closer to peace. Both the U.S. and France have also repeatedly welcomed the outgoing Russian president’s mediating efforts that have enhanced Moscow’s role in the peace process.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry statement, Nalbandian stressed the importance of the U.S. involvement in the process. The statement also quoted Clinton as saying that Washington will continue to lend “full support” to the conflict’s resolution by “in a solely peaceful way.”
Both Baku and Yerevan say that the existing peace proposals by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are largely in tune with their positions. At the same time senior Azerbaijani officials regularly criticize the mediating powers.
Ali Ahmedov, executive secretary of Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaycan party, demanded “significant changes” in the Minsk Group’s activities the day after the Sochi summit. The Trend news agency quoted Ahmedov as saying that Baku could seek “a new format” for the negotiating process if the group’s three co-chairs fail to take “serious steps to resolve the conflict within a short period.”