MOSCOW (Reuters)–A US mediator in peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave arrived in the Azeri capital Baku on Saturday to finalize plans for a key meeting next month.
US envoy Carey Cavanaugh discussed with Azeri officials details on the four days of intensive talks in Geneva to be held in mid-June between the leaders of the two Caucasian states–as efforts intensify to resolve a 13-year conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Cavanaugh said in London on Friday he thought the Geneva talks could produce a deal on the region. US President George W. Bush met the Azeri and Armenian presidents last month after intensive talks in Florida–and Cavanaugh said in London that a resolution looked possible if the support of the Azeri and Armenian people could be secured.
"We have seen lots of signs of (both leaders) getting ready to prepare their publics for an agreement," Cavanaugh said. "There is a realization that this is a unique window of opportunity."
Armenian President Robert Kocharian said on Monday that upcoming talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan will center on a new plan to end the conflict as international mediators finalized its content at a meeting in Vienna. But he said the peace deal–to be put forward by Russian–American and French negotiators–will not be signed in Geneva next month even if it is accepted by the conflicting parties.
Senior diplomats representing the troika converged on the Austrian capital on Monday to discuss preparations for the Geneva round of the negotiations.
"I don’t think that the signing ceremony of such an agreement could take place in Geneva," Kocharian told reporters in Yerevan. "Work in Geneva will mainly concentrate on the document–the signing of which–if there is agreement–would take place elsewhere."
The mediators have said that the new Karabakh plan will be based on agreemen’s reached during their "proximity" talks in Key West last month. The chief US negotiator–Carey Cavanaugh–told reporters in London on Friday that most of it is now on paper.
According to Reuters–the new plan would only "nominally" leave Karabakh in Azerbaijan and give it a land corridor to Armenia. In return–the Armenian side would have to return occupied lands in Azerbaijan proper and guarantee unfettered communication between Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave. The Azerbaijani news agency Turan–citing "foreign diplomatic sources," also reported that the Karabakh Armenia’s would enjoy de-facto independence.
Cavanaugh flew to the Austrian capital from Baku. Azerbaijani sources quoted Aliev as noting "serious progress" towards a peace settlement in the last three months. No details were reported.
The US diplomat did not make a stopover in Yerevan on his way back from the Azerbaijani capital–raising questions about the purpose of his latest meeting with Aliev. Kocharian dismissed speculation that Cavanaugh might be seeking secret deals behind Armenia’s’ back. He said: "If the visit contributed to the success of the peace process–then we can only welcome it. In any case–I don’t see anything dangerous in it."
Armenian officials claimed earlier that they and the Minsk Group co-chairs agreed on the main principles of a Karabakh settlement at Key West.
A diplomatic source has said the leaders hoped to sign a peace accord in July during the Group of Eight nations summit in Genoa.