STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–The security and independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are not subject to negotiations, the republic’s president, Bako Sahakian, said during talks Sunday with the visiting US co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group mediating for a settlement of the Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Sahakian was quoted by his press office as telling the Robert Bradke that “the conflict can not be settled in the absence of a direct dialogue between Azerbaijan and Artsakh.” The Karabakh leader also denounced Azerbaijan’s “bellicose rhetoric” and said Karabakh’s “independence and security are not subject to speculations and haggling.”
“Any attempt to ignore these facts will make a comprehensive settlement of the conflict impossible,” Sahakian said.
Bradtke was in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert on Sunday ahead of face-to-face talks on Karabakh between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan set for later this week. He had traveled to Stepanakert from Yerevan where he discussed the current state of the peace process and Yerevan’s dramatic rapprochement with Turkey with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on Saturday. The U.S. envoy is due to again meet Armenian leaders in Yerevan on Wednesday together with fellow Minsk Group co-chairs from France and Russia.
The meeting between Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sarkisian, organized by the Minsk Group, will be the first of the new year between the two leaders, Bradtke said during his visit. He did not, however, disclose the date and venue of the meeting.
“As part of my own preparations for those meetings, I thought it was important to come to Karabakh to hear the views of the people of Karabakh and the authorities in Karabakh,” Bradtke told journalists after talks with the Sahakian.
He said the United States is determined to push the negotiating process further forward this year. “I can assure all of you that the United States will be working very hard in this new year to see that the people of Karabakh can have a future of peace and stability and prosperity,” he said.
Bradtke underscored Washington’s support for a peaceful settlement of the conflict, ruling out as unacceptable a military solution to the nearly two-decade long dispute.
Karabakh’s leaders have repeatedly vocalized their serious misgivings about the mediators’ “basic principles” of a peaceful settlement that call for the return to Azerbaijan of virtually all Armenian-liberated territories connecting Karabakh proper to Armenia. The authorities in Stepanakert maintain that the mediators have still not presented them with the framework accord.
Bradtke, however, insisted that the mediating troika regularly briefs them on its peace proposals. “I think information is being provided on the status of the negotiations and what is taking place in these discussions,” he said.
Official Armenian sources gave no details of Bradke’s talks in Yerevan. Nalbandian only told RFE/RL on Sunday “Bradtke’s approaches coincide with our approaches.”
Neither Official Baku nor Yerevan have confirmed the presidential meeting on Karabakh yet. Sarkisian flew to Moscow earlier in the day where he met his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, for talks on their two countries’ srategic alliance.