Progress in Karabagh Talks

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on Tuesday confirmed that Armenia and Azerbaijan could soon reach a framework agreement on Nagorno- Karabagh but cautioned that it would have to be approved by the disputed territory’s ethnic Armenian leadership.

Nalbandian stood by statements made by official Yerevan and Baku on his weekend talks in Moscow with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted the talks in preparation for the next Armenian- Azerbaijani summit due to be held in the Russian city of Kazan later this month.

“You know that the [Armenian] Foreign Ministry circulated a statement on the trilateral ministerial meeting in Moscow saying that the parties managed to bring their positions closer to each other on a number of pivotal issues,” Nalbandian told journalists. “If this positive trend is maintained at Kazan, then we will be able to register positive progress.”

The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents will meet in Kazan one month after the United States, Russia and France jointly urged them to finalize the “basic principles” of the conflict’s resolution without “further delay.” Diplomats from the three mediating powers discussed the matter during their recent tour of the conflict zone.

Bako Sahakian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabagh Republic, told them in Stepanakert on June 8 that the basic principles can not be put into practice without being endorsed by the Karabagh Armenians. Sahakian also insisted on their direct participation in further peace talks.

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Speaking at a joint news conference with Sweden’s visiting Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Nalbandian backed these demands. “It will be impossible to switch to the second phase [of the peace process] if Karabagh doesn’t agree to the basic principles,” he said. “The second phase would see the elaboration of a [comprehensive] peace accord, and Nagorno-Karabagh must definitely take part in it.”

“For us, the cornerstone of a peaceful settlement is that the people of Nagorno- Karabagh must decide their fate,” he added.

Azerbaijan has refused to directly negotiate with the Nagorno-Karabagh since the late 1990s, saying that the territory is occupied by Armenia and has no legitimate government. The Karabagh conflict was on the agenda of Nalbandian’s meeting with Bildt. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the Swedish minister was briefed on recent developments in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiating process.

Bildt, who arrived in Yerevan from Baku, expressed hope that the conflicting parties will achieve a breakthrough “in the not-toodistant future.”

“There is no alternative to a peaceful resolution,” he said. “That requires a sense of compromise on both sides because a movement forward will require compromises.”

“But the ultimate prize is peace and that is, of course, of immense importance for both countries and for the possibilities of moving the region forward,” he added before holding a separate meeting with President Serge Sargisian.

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