YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Washington’s top Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator hinted Friday the OSCE Minsk Group continues to uphold the Karabakh Armenians’ right to determine their status in a referendum.
“What I can not tell you today is when the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be determined through a vote,” said the US Minsk Group Co-chair Matthew Bryza said.
“But you did not hear me say that Nagorno-Karabakh will be returned to Azerbaijan. I never said that. I just said that the interim status will be determined now and the final legal status will be determined by the people of Karabakh,” added Bryza.
The US official insisted Friday that Armenia and Azerbaijan remain “very close” to ending their long-running territorial dispute as he began a fresh tour of the region aimed at keeping up the momentum in the peace process.
Bryza met President Serzh Sarkisian to discuss ways of overcoming the conflicting parties’ remaining disagreements over a framework peace accord drafted by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Sarkisian’s office released no details of the meeting.
Sarkisian and his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, apparently failed to bridge their differences during their most recent talks held in Moscow on July 17-18. The mediators hope that the two leaders will achieve a breakthrough at their next meeting due in October.
“There was no formal agreement [at Moscow,] but they are very close,” Bryza said, speaking at a youth forum held in the Armenian resort town of Tsaghkadzor later in the day. He expressed hope that “we will be at the point of this agreement on the last few elements of the basic principles that remain not yet agreed” after the co-chairs visit the conflict zone in late September.
Bryza and the two other Minsk Group co-chairs met in Krakow, Poland late last month to prepare what they call an “updated version” of their proposed basic principles of a Karabakh settlement. The U.S. official said their consultations were based “what the presidents discussed in Moscow and what they told us co-chairs after their meeting.”