YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The US Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Matthew Bryza, reiterated on Friday that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic would eventually “need to participate directly” in the ongoing peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan and expressed hope that Stepanakert’s return to the negotiating table would come “sooner rather than later,” reported RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan service.
But the diplomat, who serves alongside Russian co-chair Yuri Merzlyakov and French co-chair Bernard Fassier, stressed that there first needs to be a discussion that “has to ensue among the parties and they have to come to a mutual agreement.”
“To bring them [Karabakhi authorities] back in, there needs to be a mutual agreement, and we hope that will be forthcoming,” said Bryza. “They do participate indirectly now. We listen to what their opinions are. We, of course, have to incorporate those views into the negotiations because if you don’t, it’s impossible to get people who will be affected by the solution to accept it. So, they have to accept it in the end.”
At the same time, Bryza said it was “not constructive or accurate” to talk about one side or the other taking ‘the first step’ after an agreement is finalized.
“The basic principles call for both sides to take steps simultaneously and there is a sequence of steps that both sides will take at different times. So, everything has to be done together, with both sides,” he said.
Bryza recalled Ilham Aliyev’s statement made in Moscow in early July in which the Azerbaijani leader foresaw that once the final peace agreement was signed, five territories would be returned to Azerbaijan immediately and two would be returned later.
“So, what he [Aliev] is laying out there is that there would be this immediate return of territories, but some would come back later. At the same time, Azerbaijan will be taking steps also, which includes this commentary about the corridor, and he’s made some allusions or suggestions about status, and we, the co-chair countries, talked about an interim status for Karabakh. So, all that has to happen at the same time. Even though elements of the overall process will be implemented in a staged way.”