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Mediators Note Progress In Munich Karabakh Talks

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) watches military exercises in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 22.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) watches military exercises in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 22.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev met for four hours in Munich on November 22 to continue their discussions of the so-called Basic Principles for resolving the Karabakh conflict drafted by the OSCE Minsk Group.

The group's three co-chairmen said after the meeting that progress was made in unspecified areas, while other issues "remain open."

The Munich meeting was the sixth between the two presidents this year, and according to the French co-chairman, Ambassador Bernard Fassier, it was "particularly long, because very constructive, detailed, and in-depth discussions took place between the two presidents on all the basic elements that have yet to be agreed on. Some of these elements were discussed for the first time in such a detailed and deepened manner."

Toward A Referendum?

Former U.S. Minsk group co-chairman Matthew Bryza told RFE/RL after the two presidents' second meeting this year (in Prague in May) that there are 10-20 "Basic Principles." Fassier did not say which ones were discussed in depth in Munich for the first time, but the Russian daily "Vremya novostei" on November 23 quoted an unidentified "source close to the talks" as saying that the discussion encompassed the nature of the "temporary status" to be bestowed on the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) after the signing of a formal settlement and pending the holding of a referendum on its final status; the wording of the preamble to the settlement agreement; and the future status of the Lachin corridor that forms a land bridge between the NKR and Armenia.

The Basic Principles envisage "special modalities" for Lachin and Kelbacar, including the deployment of international peacekeepers. The two presidents reportedly did not discuss the logistics of the referendum on the region's final status.

On the eve of the Munich meeting, Aliyev had warned, as he did during a July address to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, that if it failed to yield results, Azerbaijan would abandon all hopes of resolving the conflict peacefully. Aliyev noted that the UN Charter allows for the "liberation of our territory by military means."

...And Two Steps Back

Such threats represent a step back from the declaration that Aliyev, Sarkisian, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in Moscow in November 2008 affirming their shared commitment to seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The three Minsk Group co-chairs delivered a diplomatically worded but clear rebuke to Aliyev on November 22. Fassier told journalists that "in Moscow, Paris, and Washington, our governments are of the opinion that war is not an option because war could be providing no solution."

Russian co-chairman Yury Merzlyakov similarly said that "we have told the presidents that at this delicate moment of negotiations, it's better to refrain from making disproportionate accusations toward each other and especially not to talk about the possibility of a forcible solution to the issue."

Sarkisian's press spokesman Samvel Farmanian issued a statement on November 23 warning that "if the peaceful negotiations are interrupted and hostilities start, then nothing will prevent the Republic of Armenia from recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh's independence."

Yerevan has declined for the past 18 years to do so, most recently on November 12, when the Armenian government rejected a bill drafted by the opposition Zharangutiun (Heritage) party "On Recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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