Presidential Talks On Garabagh Held In Moscow


AzerNews Weekly
July 21 2009

Azerbaijani and Armenian Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh
Sarkisian held talks in Moscow on Friday in the latest round of
internationally-mediated negotiations over Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh
conflict. The meeting lasted over three hours.

According to Armenia`s news website, the two countries`
foreign ministers and the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group brokering
the peace process participated in the discussions at the beginning
of the meeting. Afterwards, talks were conducted one-on-one between
the presidents. Following the discussions, the foreign ministers and
the mediators returned to the negotiating table.

Following the presidential talks, the intermediaries shared their
impressions about the discussions.

"The talks were deep, specific and serious," US co-chair Matthew
Bryza said. "Certainly, I am disappointed that no new decisions were
reached. But, on the other hand, we have reached a stage whereby
discussions on very serious and quite complicated issues have started."

Bryza said that, for the first time, the presidents discussed
complex issues so openly. "But, no, I can`t say that everything is
fine and that they came to a consensus. Nonetheless, the [peace]
process continues and is at a very serious stage."

Yuri Merzlyakov, the Russian co-chairman, said that, in comparison with
the St. Petersburg round of talks held in early June, "we can`t boast
having achieved any success at today`s meeting of the presidents."

"Nonetheless, a substantial and noticeable rapprochement has taken
place in the positions of the sides regarding the issues being
discussed," Merzlyakov said.

He emphasized that discussions on issues that had not been previously
considered began at the Moscow meeting.

"And, based on the presidents` impression and our impression, one
can say that it is possible to reach a decision, and therefore,
the meetings will be continued."

Fassier, for his part, said the mediators were working to secure
the two leaders` consent on the Madrid principles of the conflict
settlement presented to the parties about two years ago. He stressed
that considerable progress has been achieved in the peace process
in the past two years, however, it is not sufficient yet to finalize
an agreement.

The Basic Principles for a negotiated settlement of the long-standing
dispute were submitted by the mediators to Baku and Yerevan in the
Spanish capital in November 2007.

The talks between Presidents Aliyev and Sarkisian continued with
the participation of their Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev
on Saturday. In the morning, the three leaders attended the
traditional horse race for the Russian president`s prize at the
Central Horse-racing Track and then continued with discussions in
the trilateral format at a restaurant in Moscow. Afterwards, Aliyev
met one-on-one with Medvedev.

The meeting of the three leaders proceeded constructively, Sergei
Prikhodko, the aide to the Russian President, was quoted as saying
by the local RIA Novosti news agency.

"A lengthy and, according to our side`s assessment, very constructive
meeting took place, during which discussions continued on a number
of issues that remain open," Prikhodko said. "During the meeting,
Dmitry Medvedev confirmed the readiness of Russia, as a Minsk Group
co-chair, to make further efforts at finding mutually acceptable
solutions on the Upper Garabagh settlement."

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said some hopes
were rekindled for resolving the Garabagh conflict following the
Azerbaijani and Russian presidents` one-on-one meeting. He said the
experience of the past five years shows that some movement has been
seen in the peace process.

"Medvedev is discussing the pettiest details now on his own
initiative," the minister told journalists Monday. "It is sensed that
Russia is seeking to achieve advances in the conflict settlement."

Mammadyarov said the recent statement issued by the three countries
co-chairing the mediating OSCE Minsk Group in Italy indicates that
these states are interested not in retaining the status quo in the
conflict resolution, but moving the peace process forward.

In the joint statement, US President Barack Obama, France`s Nicolas
Sarkozy and Russia`s Dmitry Medvedev called on Armenian and Azerbaijani
leaders to resolve their differences and move towards a final accord
on the long-standing conflict based on the Madrid principles.

The foreign minister emphasized that the conflicting sides are working
on the Madrid principles, but there are matters that have already
been agreed to.

"It is definite that, first, Armenians must withdraw their armed forces
from the occupied Azerbaijani districts. This is unequivocal. An
agreed upon timetable will be determined. Afterwards, the displaced
persons are to return to their native land and communications are
to be restored. Shortly before that, the European Union might hold
a donor conference for the restoration of communications."

Mammadyarov said one of the important issues was expanding ties
between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Upper Garabagh. The
status of the region will be discussed only after all these matters
have been resolved.

"We had said even prior to the Moscow meeting that we need to determine
Upper Garabagh`s status. Certainly, with a high-level autonomy within
Azerbaijani territory."

Mammadyarov noted that the mediators are due to pay separate visits
to the region in early September as well as a joint visit in late
September. Until then, they will continue working on the principles
of the conflict settlement at hand.

The minister said talks on the level of the Azerbaijani and Armenian
presidents will be continued in three months — in October.

Commenting on the interval of several months for the presidential
meetings, which have intensified of late, he said it would be wrong
to consider this a break. During this time, ties will be expanded
between the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities, Mammadyarov said.

"Another meeting of the communities is planned soon. But, this time,
such a meeting will take place in a third country," he added.

Nonetheless, some Azerbaijani pundits have little hope that a
breakthrough will be reached in the peace process in the foreseeable
future. Analyst Arastun Orujlu says the latest discussions have
shown that a model for settling the Garabagh conflict has yet to
be found. All models being offered fail to satisfy "either this or
the other side" and, overall, there is no hope for finding such a
model today.

"Therefore, both the sides and the mediators were confined to
conventional, general expressions after the meeting." said
Orujlu. "We`ve been hearing these expressions for 10 years
running. It is beyond a doubt that further meetings will end like
this, as well. Given that the positions [of the conflicting sides]
are contradictory, advances should not be expected any time soon."

The analyst believes that, until a model for Garabagh settlement is
found, such meetings will have only one advantage – the conflict will
not spiral into a resumption of hostilities.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in conflict for nearly
two decades. A lengthy war ended with the signing of a cease-fire
in 1994, but Armenia continues to occupy Upper Garabagh and seven
other Azerbaijani districts in defiance of international law. Peace
talks that kicked off after the hostilities have brought few tangible