YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan were in meeting for more than three hours in the Russian capital Moscow late Friday afternoon in the latest round of internationally mediated negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The two presidents met again Saturday for talks on the conflict with their Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.
After two hours of face-to-face discussions, the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, were joined by their foreign ministers and the three co-chairmen of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The two leaders will also have a joint meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday, a Russian Foreign ministry source said, without giving further details.
Keen to burnish its credentials as a powerbroker, Russia has been mediating talks between the two countries over Karabakh. The three leaders last met in Saint Petersburg in June.
Meeting with Medvedev
Russian President Dmity Medvedev hosted “very constructive” talks Saturday between Aliyev and Sarkisian. No new developments, however, were announced after those talks.
“The meeting was long and as far as our side was concerned, very constructive,” Interfax news agency quoted Kremlin diplomatic adviser Sergei Prikhodko as saying. “There was a long and, according to our side, very constructive meeting during which some of the remaining open questions were discussed.”
“Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan expressed their gratitude to Dmitry Medvedev for his efforts to bring together the positions of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” he added.
Prikhodko said that Medvedev, who has brought the two sides together four times since November, “confirmed the goodwill of Russia, as co-chair of the Minsk group, in efforts to find mutually acceptable solutions in the Karabakh conflict.”
Meanwhile, his Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Thursday traveled to Stepanakert where he had a two-hour-long meeting with Karabakh President Bako Sahakian.
After meeting Sahakian, Nalbandian said Armenia acknowledged that Karabakh, which has been removed as a direct party to the negotiations, should be a full participant in the process. “And this is a necessity and also a guarantee of the success of the peace process,” Nalbandian emphasized.
Armenia Under Mounting Pressure
The Moscow summit comes amid growing international pressure on Armenia to make unilateral concessions to Azerbaijan on the long-running conflict.
On the sidelines of the G8 summit in L’Aquila last week, the presidents of France, Russia, and the United States — the three countries that jointly co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group — urged the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan “to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement” on an updated version of the so-called Madrid Principles.
That joint statement listed six of those principles proposed by the mediators as a basis for further negotiations. They, in particular, call for the ceding of the liberated Armenian territories surrounding Karabakh to Azerbaijani control and a “future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will.”
But Karabakh’s self determination is being brushed aside for expediency as international mediators rush to secure a settlement of the conflict in hopes of saving the failed dialogue between Armenia and Turkey over the normalization of their relations. Turkey has conditioned the opening of its border with Armenia to a resolution of the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s favor.
Growing Domestic Opposition
Domestically, Sarkisian is facing growing pressure over his administration’s failure to properly advance the interests of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh at the negotiating table and for what is being described as a shortsighted policy that has lead the nation into a difficult corner.
Earlier this week, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) called for the resignation of foreign minister Nalbandian and strongly urged Sarkisian himself not to sign any document based on the Madrid principles in Moscow. The ARF said it considered those principles as damaging to the interests of Karabakh and Armenia.
Those calls were echoed on Wednesday by an official statement from Karabakh’s Foreign Ministry calling on international mediators to reset the distorted format of the current negotiating process. That statement was followed by similar demands made by eight political parties in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic—four of which are represented in Karabakh’s parliament.
The statement presented by the ARF of Artsakh, warned against “jeopardizing” the security of the indigenous people living in Karabakh and demanded that international mediators “respect the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” and to secure its participation in the conflict settlement process as a full party. The statement also reiterated that Karabakh’s independent statehood and territorial integrity had been consolidated by the Nagorno-Karabakh constitution.
Last week, in addressing a large pan-Armenian conference in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh President Bako Sahakian forcefully called for the immediate return of his republic as a full-fledged party to the ongoing negotiations with Azerbaijan.
The conference, organized by the ARF, brought together 135 Armenian leaders from some 25 countries, representing a broad cross-section of the political, academic, religious, business and civil society leadership from Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and the Diaspora to discuss the diplomatic crisis that has ensued as a result of the Sarkisian administration’s conciliatory policies toward Azerbaijan and Turkey. At its close, the conference unanimously adopted a resolution urging Armenia not to sign any agreement on Karabakh, urging Stepanakert’s direct participation in the talks, and calling for vigilance in the face of pressure to adopt a “hasty solution to the problem and Azerbaijan’s belligerent statements.”