VIENNA (Combined Sources)—The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group working to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict briefed fellow diplomats from other nations affiliated with the group on the current status of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks at a meeting in Vienna on Wednesday.
Ambassadors Yuri Merzlyakov of Russia, Bernard Fassier of France, and Robert Bradtke of the United States issued a joint statement the following day underscoring the continued commitment of Armenia and Azerbaijan to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on “basic principles” that were proposed to them in late 2007.
The Wednesday briefing was the last official trip for Merzlyakov, who used the opportunity to introduce his replacement Ambassador Igor Popov. The Co-Chairs are expected to meet the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Europe in the coming days to discuss how to move negotiations forward.
The co-chairs similarly spoke of “a new impetus” to a Karabakh settlement in their previous statement that was released in Moscow late last month.
It remains unclear whether they want the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents to meet again in the coming days or weeks. Both leaders are due to fly to Moscow this weekend to attend official ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two.
The basic principles in question were formally put forward by the three mediating powers at an OSCE ministerial conference held in Madrid in November 2007. They reportedly call for a gradual solution to the conflict that would start with an Armenian withdrawal from virtually all the liberated territories linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The indigenous Armenian population of the unrecognized republic would then determine its final status in a referendum.
The presidents of the United States, Russia and France reaffirmed their strong support for these principles in the July statement cited by the Minsk Group co-chairs. They called it a “reasonable compromise” between the internationally recognized principles of territorial integrity and peoples’ self-determination.
The co-chairs made undisclosed changes in the Madrid document later in 2009, in an effort to facilitate its acceptance by the parties. President Ilham Aliyev and other Azerbaijani leaders have said that they have accepted it with a number of unspecified “exceptions.” Armenia’s reaction to the modified peace plan has been more ambiguous so far.
Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide, Novruz Mammadov, said on Wednesday that the onus is on the Armenian side to go along with the proposed settlement and urged the mediators to put stronger pressure on Yerevan. “The co-chairs have said that Armenia will express its position soon,” he reportedly told journalists in Baku.
Mammadov claimed that the Armenians asked for two weeks to consider the updated Madrid document “several months” ago and has still not given the mediators a definitive answer.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry swiftly denied these claims, accusing Baku of trying to cover up its “non-constructive position” with “lies.”