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Oskanian Guarded After Fresh Karabakh Talks

By Armen Dulian in Prague

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian remained guardedly optimistic about prospects for a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but stopped short of announcing any specific agreements after fresh talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov in Prague on Tuesday.

“I wish I could say that there is a full agreement on the principles [of the settlement],” he told RFE/RL. “But we are still not there. There is a general framework of issues [discussed by the parties], but as this meeting showed, they need to be further consolidated.”

The three-hour talks took place at the imposing Tuscany Palace of the Czech Foreign Ministry in the presence of French, Russian and U.S. mediators, marking the start of what the two ministers call the second stage of “the Prague process.” They claim to have made progress during a series of similar meetings held in the Czech capital last summer.

Oskanian refused to go into details of the discussions, saying that a lot remains to be done for hammering out a compromise agreement acceptable to both parties. “This is a fairly difficult and complex process and it will continue to be like this during further meetings,” he said. “On the whole, I consider the overall mood and the atmosphere positive.

“It is still too early too disclose any details. Once we have agreements on concrete issues, I think we will be able to talk about them little by little.”

Armenian and Azerbaijani media have speculated that Oskanian and Mammadyarov have been discussing a gradual resolution of the dispute that would take at least a decade. Azerbaijani officials say the Armenians have dropped their insistence on a package agreement that would settle all contentious issues at once. The latter, for their part, maintain that they will never agree to place Karabakh back under Azerbaijani rule.

Asked about chances of a breakthrough in the peace process this year, Oskanian said, “We are working toward achieving that goal. But it is still too early to make definite statements to that effect.”

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