WASHINGTON–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to meet the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday and Tuesday for talks that will likely center on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Clinton reportedly canceled her appointments Monday laid low by her allergies, an official said, stressing she was not suffering from swine flu. She had been due to meet also with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country has been mediating between Turkey and Armenia. Thh meetings have been rescheduled for Tuesday.
The talks highlight the new U.S. administration’s hopes that the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks will produce a breakthrough soon. The presidents of the two nations will meet in Prague on Thursday to try to bridge their remaining differences over the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the American, French and Russian mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
Speaking during congressional hearings in Washington late last month, Clinton said Baku and Yerevan could hammer out a framework peace accord “in the next months.” She discussed the Karabakh conflict as well as efforts to improve Turkish-Armenian relations in a phone call with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian last week.
Their follow-up talks in Washington were scheduled for late Monday. Clinton will meet Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Tuesday.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, Washington’s top Karabakh negotiator, admitted over the weekend that the timing of the two meetings is “not a coincidence.” He said “President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have pointed out in their statements that they want to achieve a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process,” he told the Azerbaijani APA news agency. “That is why the two foreign ministers will meet the secretary of state separately.”
Bryza also said that the success of the ongoing Turkish-Armenian rapprochement would increase chances of Karabakh peace. “If the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement moves forward we might see Armenia act more constructively in the negotiations,” he said.