By Hrach Melkumian
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will hold yet another face-to-face meeting later this month to continue their search for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian confirmed on Friday.
Oskanian said Robert Kocharian and Heydar Aliev will meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Prague on November 22-23 for further discussions of peace proposals by the U.S., Russian and French mediators. “At the moment there is only one proposal on the table regarding which the two presidents have been holding discussions,” he told reporters.
Oskanian claimed earlier this week that that peace plan is acceptable to Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and allows the conflicting parties to bridge their differences. He apparently referred to far-reaching agreements reportedly reached by Aliev and Kocharian during intensive peace talks last year. The Azerbaijani leadership, however, denies that the two presidents agreed on the main principles of ending the Karabakh dispute at the time.
A senior Russian official, Sergei Stepashin, was quoted as saying during a visit to Baku this week that Azerbaijan has come up with a new peace plan which could serve as a basis for a comprehensive peace deal. But Oskanian said he is not aware of its existence and made it clear that any peace initiative must come from the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“The co-chairs have not yet offered us anything new,” he said.
The Aliev-Kocharian meeting in Prague will be preceded by more talks between special Armenian and Azerbaijani presidential envoys. Deputy Foreign Ministers Tatul Markarian and Araz Azimov met twice in the Czech capital earlier this year and did not report progress towards a peaceful settlement afterwards.
Oskanian said one should not have “special expectations” from the meeting of the representatives. “The fact that it will take place on the eve of the two presidents’ meeting is just a coincidence,” he said.
Aliev and Kocharian appeared satisfied with the results of their two most recent encounters, held in August and October, but stopped short of announcing a breakthrough on any of the sticking points. Both men are up for reelection next year and are unlikely to make unpopular compromise deals ahead of their respective polls.
In a related development, Kocharian and Oskanian received on Friday with the visiting new French co-chair of the Minsk Group, Henri Jacquolain. No details of the meetings were reported. Jacquolain’s predecessor, Hugues Pernet, had served in that capacity for only four months.