U.S. Karabakh Envoy Again Visits Yerevan

U.S. Karabakh Envoy Again Visits Yerevan
By Hrach Melkumian and Gevorg Stamboltsian 04/06/2004 00:36

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
June 3 2004

Steven Mann, the new U.S. chief negotiator on Nagorno-Karabakh,
paid an unexpected and low-key visit to Yerevan on Thursday which
officials said focused on international efforts to resolve the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Mann had separate meetings with President Robert Kocharian and
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian for the second time in six weeks. No
details of the talks were made public, with the U.S. envoy declining
to comment on the purpose of his trip and the current status of the
peace process. “I am just having talks with the Armenian government,”
he told RFE/RL without elaborating. A brief statement by Kocharian’s
office said Mann discussed with the Armenian leader the Karabakh
conflict and informed him about his talks held with Azerbaijani
leaders in Baku on Wednesday. Earlier in the day officials in the
presidential administration could not confirm the precise time of
the meeting, suggesting that it was arranged at a short notice.

Mann’s previous trip to Yerevan was followed by a meeting in Poland
between Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev. Foreign
Minister Vartan Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar
Mamedyarov met in Strasbourg two weeks later, emerging from it with
cautiously optimistic statements. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said
the two ministers will meet again in Prague on June 21, adding that
Oskanian and the U.S. mediator spoke about details of that meeting.

Speaking at Yerevan State University earlier on Thursday, Oskanian
said that the negotiation process is “not on a bad track” at the
moment and is “following in the footsteps of previous talks.” “I
think that in the next two months we will have more clarity as to
whether we can build on the base that has been created during all
these years…or Azerbaijan wants to divert that process to another
direction,” he said, reiterating Yerevan’s hopes of reviving peace
accords reportedly reached by the parties three years ago.

Mamedyarov similarly stated last week that the peace talks are
“intensifying” after a period of stagnation. Azerbaijan seems
to be pushing for a new strategy of conflict resolution whereby
agreement on Karabakh’s status would be preceded by the return of
Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani lands around the disputed region in
exchange for the restoration of economic links between the two nations.

Oskanian repeated the Armenian side’s insistence on a single “package”
accord that would resolve all contentious issues. He added that it
will agree to a phased settlement only if the majority of Armenians
want so. “If there is really a public consensus that we should go
for a phased solution, then we will have no problem,” he said. “But
to be honest, I don’t see popular demand for a phased solution.”