By Anna Saghabalian
President Robert Kocharian sounded on Tuesday cautiously optimistic about prospects for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which appear to have brightened since his most recent negotiations with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliev.
“There were moments when we were pretty close to a settlement but something hampered it and the negotiating process became more passive in the end,” Kocharian said in reference to the decade-long peace talks mediated by the international community.
“The process is now proceeding quite actively and there are some hopes that we can, after all, achieve success,” he added.
The comments made at a news conference echo upbeat statements made by international mediators following Kocharian’s meeting with Aliev in Russia on August 26. Although the two leaders did not announce any peace accords, Yuri Merzlyakov, the Russian co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, described their encounter as “very positive.” Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian similarly noted on September 6 that “common ground between the parties on key issues is visible today.”
According to the OSCE’s current chairman-in-office, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, a Karabakh peace deal could be cut as early as this year. However, Baku and Yerevan are unlikely to announce any agreements at least until November which will see parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and a constitutional referendum in Armenia.
Meanwhile, Merzlyakov and the U.S. and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group were reportedly meeting in Vienna for second consecutive day on Tuesday to ascertain dates for the next round of Karabakh talks. It is not yet clear if they plan joint visits to the conflict zone before the November polls.
Azerbaijani media reported on Monday that the group’s American co-chair, Steven Mann, will pay a separate visit to Baku later this week.