Speaking in the Armenian Parliament on Thursday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandian revealed some details of the May 16 meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Vienna, Austria. The Armenian minister confirmed that Azerbaijan did not accede to the statement by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs.
After the Vienna meeting, a final declaration was adopted and this declaration refers to the agreement on the deployment in the conflict zone of equipment to monitor incidents as well as the expansion of the existing Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office.
“In the presence of the top representatives of the foreign-policy departments of Russia and the United States and the state secretary of France the parties agreed on what was presented in the statement of the co-chairs. The statement could be five-sided, but, yes, Azerbaijan refused to sign the agreement, and it became a trilateral one,” said Nalbandian.
Immediately after the Vienna meeting officials in Baku stated that they did not sign anything. In fact, Nalbandian confirmed this, stating that the final declaration was not signed by Armenia either. Nalbandian did not explain why Yerevan did not accede to the declaration and it remains unclear whether it was connected with the format or with some demands related to this document.
The top Armenian diplomat stressed, however, that despite media speculations there are no plans for any documents to be signed at the next meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents that is likely to be held in June. “Talking about signing things is not only premature, but also pointless, because there is no document,” he said.
He said that for talks to resume appropriate conditions are necessary: “If there is a possibility of introducing mechanisms of [ceasefire] monitoring, if there is the expansion of the existing office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, which will exclude the events that took place in early April, there will be an opportunity for the resumption of the negotiations.”
Officials in Baku, meanwhile, also do not rule out that there may not be any June meeting or it could prove just a “regular” one. Azerbaijan insists on a phased solution to the Karabakh conflict that would imply the withdrawal of Armenian forces from some territories at the first stage.
During the April 2-5 hostilities, the Armenian side withdrew from some high ground in Karabakh, leaving it to Azerbaijan. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan estimated that Armenians lost about 800 hectares of land in the clashes. He said, however, that those areas did not have any strategic importance and, therefore, it was inexpedient to try to regain them at the cost of new casualties.
According to the so-called Madrid principles of settlement and their modifications proposed to the conflicting sides by international mediators, Armenians would have to withdraw from at least five of the seven districts around Karabakh in exchange for an interim status for the Armenian-populated region and a possibility of a future referendum on its ultimate status.