YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–A top U.S. negotiator spoke of a “new phase” in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process after he and fellow mediators from France and Russia held talks with Armenian leaders in Yerevan on Wednesday.
The three co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group met President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian at the start of a new round of regional shuttle diplomacy aimed at speeding up an Armenian-Azerbaijani framework agreement on Karabakh. They are due to proceed to Stepanakert and Baku later this week.
As always, official Armenian sources gave few details of the confidential talks. A short statement issued by the Armenian Foreign Ministry late Tuesday said only that they focused on ways of narrowing the conflicting parties’ differences over the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the mediators.
“Now I feel that we are moving to a new phase with a deeper, more detailed discussion of the remaining elements of the basic principles that need to be resolved,” the group’s U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, told RFE/RL after follow-up talks on Wednesday with Nalbandian. “At the end of the day, what we have to have is a mutual agreement on a settlement based on the [OSCE’s] three core Helsinki Final Act principles of territorial integrity, self-determination and non-use of force.”
“I hope that we can sustain this progress here and then in Baku and Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh in the next couple of days,” said Bryza. “There is quite a bit of momentum, and we need to capitalize on it while we can.” He confirmed that Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev plan to meet on May 7 on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Prague.
Visiting Russia on Friday, Aliev expressed hope that the Karabakh conflict will be settled “rather quickly.”
“The positions of the sides recently became closer to a certain degree,” he said. “Some questions that previously seemed hard to solve have been agreed.”