YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—The Russian Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group told a news conference Wednesday that Karabakh should take part in the peace process, adding that none of the co-chairs has ever believed otherwise.
Yuri Merzlyakov said Karabakh’s participation will be determined after a consensus on all the points by the parties and in the process of drafting an agreement. He added that Karabakh will participate to the extent that is deemed appropriate and its participation was necessary given that half of the agreement points will directly impact the lives of Karabakh’s citizens.
Merzlyakov, however, was joined by his French and US counterparts, Bernard Fassier and Matthew Bryza, in praising Azeri president Ilham Aliyev’s latest statements on the negotiating process made in a weekend interview with the Russian TV channel Vesti.
The Azeri leader stated in particular that Karabakh’s final status may never be ascertained even if the parties reach a framework peace agreement soon. He said the disputed region could therefore indefinitely have a “provisional status.” He also stated that the parties had agreed on the withdrawal from the liberated territories surrounding the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
“Agreement on the realization of the procedure for determining that [final] status will be reached later on,” confirmed Merzlyakov. “There is a notion of ‘delayed status.’”
Fassier, the French co-chair, described Aliev’s comments as a “step forward.” He argued that the Azerbaijani leader did not threaten to resolve the conflict by force.
“I hope that what’s happening is we are seeing President Aliev beginning to prepare the Azerbaijani people for further progress,” Bryza said, for his part. “I understand that certain elements of what President Aliev said in that interview weren’t entirely welcomed here in Armenia because they reflect Azerbaijan’s position. But if you compare what we said in this interview to what has been said in the past, I think you’ll see a shift in the tone.”
A meeting between Aliyev and President Serzh Sarkisian is expected to take place in Moscow on July 17 and will become the sixth presidential summit in 13 months.
Bryza, insisted that the two leaders made “significant progress” at their last talks held in Saint Petersburg and Prague. “I’m hopeful that we will see a continuation of the progress that we saw in Prague but really in Saint Petersburg,” he told RFE/RL.
Fassier said that the conflicting parties have all but agreed on the most important of about 15 “basic principles” of Karabakh peace proposed by the co-chairs.
According to Merzlyakov, those principles relate to Karabakh’s future status and the security of its predominantly Armenian population. “Now the matter is nearing completion to a great extent,” he said.
Fassier also addressed the abrupt cancellation of the co-chairs’ visit to Stepanakert. An earlier announcement had indicated that the co-chairs had canceled the visit, the second in recent weeks, due to inclement weather.
Fassier told detractors, who reportedly smiled during the reiteration of the weather comment, to contact Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian.