“Russia has a good chance as mediator in Nagorno-Karabakh settlement”

International mediators want Baku and Yerevan to end discussions on fundamental principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement (RIA Novosti / Iliya Pitalev)
The forthcoming meeting of the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Russia’s city of Kazan is considered a key step in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

­Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have sent optimistic signals as the presidents of the two countries are preparing for their meeting in Russia. On Friday, President Dmitry Medvedev will host a new round of talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, attended by Ilkham Aliev and Serzh Sargsyan.

Mediators of the Minsk Group of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are hoping that the meeting may result in the signing of a document regarding the principles of a settlement or even make a breakthrough in the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

However, a lot of questions still remain on the path to reconciliation. This will be the fourth meeting of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, organized by Russian. Earlier talks, held in Moscow, Astrakhan and Sochi, were also expected to bring tangible results, but little has changed in the positions of the two countries.

In 1991, the Azeri region of Nagorno-Karabakh, predominantly populated by Armenians, declared itself an independent republic. Its status has not been recognized by any country. The mediators, including the OSCE, Russia, France and the USA want Baku and Yerevan to take a decision in Kazan regarding a settlement.  

The negotiation process is based on the Madrid principles, envisioning a phased withdrawal of the Armenian armed formations positioned in territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, the return of Azeri refugees, and the introduction of peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, Armenia is questioning the fate of its own refugees that left Azerbaijan during the conflict. Yerevan also wants the details of any future referendum that could determine the status of the region. In accordance with its constitution, Azerbaijan can only hold nationwide referendums rather than region specific ones. Another problem is that the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh says that no decision will be taken by Baku and Yerevan without their participation.  

Vladimir Kazimirov, the former head of the intermediary mission and first Russia’s co-chairman of the OSCE group on the conflict, said that in Kazan the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan may agree on principles that could lead to an agreement on peace terms. The only other option would be a lack of progress which would ultimately result in a new phase of talks, he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

Yerevan wants concrete results from the meeting in Kazan, President Serzh Sargsyan told a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Wednesday. He noted he was going to Kazan with “a positive mood and the intention to conduct constructive talks.”

Russia has a good chance as a mediator, former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan believes. “I have a feeling that the West is not doing enough to solve this problem, not considering it a priority,” he told Moskovskiye Novosti daily. The initiative for solving it seems to have fallen on Russia, he noted.

Azeri President Ilkham Aliyev on Wednesday also praised Russia's role in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. “President Dmitry Medvedev is exerting a lot of effort to help the parties come to a settlement,” he said in Brussels.

Aliyev stressed earlier that the settlement of the conflict could only be based on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. “There is no other solution,” he was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. Azerbaijan “will never allow a second Armenian state to be created on their historical land,” he noted, adding that the time has come to change the status quo.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the forthcoming summit may become a landmark event and could reach a breakthrough in the settlement of the conflict. Last month, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group urged both Azerbaijan and Armenia to show political will in Kazan and “end discussions on fundamental principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.”