The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan had a “very useful” conversation earlier this month but are not yet planning to meet again for further talks on Nagorno-Karabakh, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian said on Monday.
“A summit meeting is not planned at the moment,” Mnatsakanian told reporters in Yerevan. “Right now we are planning the continuation of [Armenian-Azerbaijani] talks at the level of foreign ministers.”
“That is the basis for preparing meetings between the leaders [of the two countries,]” he said at a joint news conference with Bulgaria’s visiting Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva.
Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov are expected to hold fresh talks in December. Like Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, they have met on a regular basis over the past year.
Aliyev and Pashinian publicly traded barbs during an October 11 summit of former Soviet republics held in Turkmenistan’s capital Aghgabat. Still, they reportedly talked to each other at great length during an official dinner hosted by Turkmen President Gurbaguly Berdymuhamedov.
Mnatsakanian said that their conversation in Ashgabat was “very useful in the sense that we managed to reaffirm some approaches and principles related to an environment conducive to peace.” “We are now focused on those issues,” he added without elaborating.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group met with Pashinian and Aliyev during their October 14-17 tour of the Karabakh conflict zone. In a joint statement, the mediators said the two leaders promised to make more efforts to “prepare the populations for peace and reduce tensions.”
In a newspaper interview published on October 17, Mammadyarov complained about the mediators’ focus on confidence-building measures, rather than “substantive negotiations” sought by Baku.
The Azerbaijani foreign minister also said that the so-called Madrid Principles of resolving the conflict remain at the heart of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
This framework peace accord was drafted by the United States, Russia and France over a decade ago. It calls for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts around Karabakh. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population would be able to determine Karabakh’s internationally recognized status in a future referendum.
The three mediating powers reaffirmed their support for this peace formula in March. Pashinian said shortly afterwards that the Madrid Principles are open to different interpretations and therefore need to be clarified.
Commenting on Mammadyarov’s statement, Mnatsakanian insisted that the conflicting parties are not yet working on “a concrete document.” “But it doesn’t mean that we are not working on various principles and parameters in order to ascertain how we can establish necessary parity between commitments of the parties,” he said.