BAKU: Azeri, Armenian presidents’ Kazan talks raise hopes

AZERI, ARMENIAN PRESIDENTS’ KAZAN TALKS RAISE HOPES

AzerNews, Azerbaijan
Sept 1 2005

Hopes for a settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Upper Garabagh
conflict increased after another around of talks, Foreign Minister
Elmar Mammadyarov told journalists following the closed-door meeting
of the Azeri and Armenian presidents in the Russian Volga river city
of Kazan on Saturday.

The previous meeting of the two presidents in Warsaw raised
expectations for progress in the conflict resolution.

Prior to the Kazan meeting held on the sidelines of the Commonwealth of
Independent States summit, there were presumptions that the sides would
reach a specific agreement or sign a document. However, it became clear
after the meeting of the foreign ministers in Moscow shortly before
the presidents’ talks that considerable results would not be achieved.

As before, the presidents’ meeting was attended by the co-chairs of
the meditating OSCE Minsk Group Steven Mann of the United States, Yuri
Merzlyakov of Russia and Bernard Fassier of France, as well as the OSCE
chairman’s envoy Anzhei Kaspshik. The talks, which first started with
participation of the two foreign ministers and OSCE representatives,
were followed by a private meeting of the heads of state.

Although no extensive information was available on the details and
outcome of the meeting, Foreign Minister Mammadyarov’s statement
enables a conclusion that major results were not achieved. He said,
however, that the meeting cannot be considered fruitless, as talks
between the two presidents always yield results. “The hopes that
emerged after the Warsaw meeting further increased after the Kazan
talks.”

The Minister noted that new proposals were made at the Kazan
meeting and a week or two are needed to analyze them and assess the
situation. Although Mammadyarov did not elaborate, it is clear that
the mediators made certain proposals on the conflict resolution.

Touching on the timeframe for the next meeting, the Minister said
the sides agreed to consider it after analyzing the results of the
presidents’ meeting.

A spokesman for the Armenian President Viktor Sogomonian said
official Yerevan considers the meeting a ‘positive development’ in
the negotiating process. “The two countries’ foreign ministers will
continue working considering the agreements reached in Kazan”, he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed to the two countries’
leaders prior to the Kazan meeting. In her phone conversations with
the Azeri and Armenian presidents, she said Washington attaches great
importance to the talks on the conflict settlement. Rice also voiced
a hope for a peaceful conflict resolution.

Mammadyarov said prior to the meeting that progress would be achieved
in peace talks if Armenia accepts the proposals made by Azerbaijan.

“The sides have mutual understanding on certain issues. If Armenia
is ready to accept all of our proposals, there will be a breakthrough
in the negotiations.”

The Minister noted that the mediators have stepped up their activity
and continue to put forth ‘compromise’ proposals.

Touching upon the Garabagh status, Mammadyarov emphasized the
importance of discussing the issue strictly within Azerbaijan’s
territorial integrity. “There are different ways to resolve the
issue. Dialogue on the matter should therefore continue… The
main idea is for us to find a way for Azeris and Armenians to live
peacefully in a small territory. The sooner we find a way for this,
the more rapidly our states will develop, as the conflict is an
obstacle for our countries’ development. We should focus on the
processes ongoing around the world and look to the future.”

Meeting ‘was doomed to failure’ A well-known Armenian political analyst
said the meeting of Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharian was
‘doomed to failure’.

“The meeting certainly means some progress. But both Aliyev and
Kocharian understood well that it would be extremely difficult to agree
upon anything on the eve of the parliament elections in Azerbaijan”,
Andranik Migranian told Russian media.

“The pre-election situation has heated up in Azerbaijan so much that
any discussions on compromises are harshly disapproved there. The
meeting was therefore doomed to fail beforehand.”

Asked what Azerbaijan and Armenia should do to achieve success in the
conflict settlement, Migranian said ‘the conflicting sides cannot do
anything on their own’.

“In this case, the decision may be imposed by the international
community or the status quo in the current situation will remain.

This may continue until one of the sides deems itself strong enough
to solve the problem through military action.”

The analyst said that certain progress in the conflict resolution
could be achieved if superpowers ‘impose a compromise solution on
the conflicting sides’.

“Without this decision, it is difficult for the authorities of
Azerbaijan and Armenia to explain to their own electorate why they
would accept such unfavorable concessions.”

In reply to a question whether Russia may step up its mediating role
in the conflict settlement, Migranian said this country is involved
in the process anyway. “However, Russia’s current potential does not
allow doing more that it is doing now.”

“Russia has limited financial, economic and military-political
potential, not to mention the fact it has almost lost its influence
in Georgia and Azerbaijan…Many do not see Russia as a country that
has a key to the solution of the Garabagh problem any more.

Azerbaijan binds greater hopes for Washington or Brussels rather than
Moscow in this respect.”

The analyst said that the increase of Azerbaijan’s military spending
stated by President Ilham Aliyev earlier is a ‘move aimed at pressuring
Armenia’.

Migranian did not rule out that the Azeri government will be ‘tempted
to make a decision to fight back’. “When they build up certain military
potential, they may resort to fighting back”, he said.

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