Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia Elmar Mammadyarov and Vardan Oskanian held a fifth round of talks on the Upper Garabagh conflict mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group in Prague, Czech Republic on January 11.
Mammadyarov told US Radio Liberty following the meeting that
although complex, the negotiations continue and a similar meeting will take place in Europe in late February-early March.
With regard to Baku’s position, the minister said that Azerbaijani refugees must return home and Armenia must withdraw from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. He pointed out that Azerbaijan will make no concessions on pivotal issues, while its territorial integrity and any kind of exchange of land are not a matter of discussion.
Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian generally assessed the meeting as positive, noting that the discussions were open. The parties tried to defend the principles achieved at previous meetings, he said. Oskanian stated that Armenia has three key demands: for Azerbaijan to forge ties with Upper Garabagh, agree for the corridor between Upper Garabagh and Armenia to be transferred to Yerevan’s control and guarantee the security of Armenian residents in Garabagh. He emphasized that Azerbaijan did not concur on these issues.
Prior to leaving for the Czech capital, Oskanian told the local media that the talks to be held in 2005 will differ from the negotiating process that started last year. “The key principles on settling the Upper Garabagh conflict will be determined and separate details of these principles discussed this year,” he said.
The Armenian foreign minister stressed that progress may be expected in the resolution of the Garabagh conflict in 2005. “Of course, we should be ready to make certain concessions,” Oskanian said.
Armenia’s “Azg” newspaper had issued a conflicting report on the issues to be discussed at the Prague meeting. Armenia and Azerbaijan were likely to reach a formal agreement on the status of Upper Garabagh, the publication said.
The newspaper also said that under this agreement, Armenia will allegedly withdraw its armed forces from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. Baku, in turn, will allegedly agree upon transferring Upper Garabagh to Armenia’s control, which consequently will lead to a nationwide poll on the status of Upper Garabagh in 5 to 10 years.
A similar statement was made by Oskanian in a news conference on December 22, 2004. Citing the French “Le Figaro” newspaper, the Armenian minister pointed out the statements by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Pierre Lellouche and former Spanish foreign minister A. Palacion (who visited Upper Garabagh last fall) that Upper Garabagh must be ruled by Armenia for a certain period of time and a referendum be held in 5-10 years.
Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Yuri Merzlyakov earlier stated that the Armenian side is ready to make certain concessions in the Prague meetings and that “now it is Azerbaijan’s turn”.