Azeri, Armenian FMs in Ireland for OSCE

Dec. 6, 2012 at 12:01 AM
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DUBLIN, Ireland, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- High-level diplomatic efforts to break a deadlock in stalled negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could be on tap this week at a Dublin meeting.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian each were to be in the Irish capital Thursday for the two-day ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where it was expected the two could meet on the sidelines.

Such a meeting would come two weeks after a new round of shuttle diplomacy facilitated by the OSCE's Minsk Group of the France, Russia and the United States failed to produce any movement in the standoff between Yerevan and Baku over the next steps to resolve tensions in the disputed enclave.

Those talks in the two capitals and in Nagorno-Karabakh saw Minsk Group Co-chairmen Robert Bradtke of the United States, Igor Popov of Russia and Jacques Faure of France meet separately with Presidents Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

Afterward, the OSCE group issued a vague statement saying only they would continue to "further work on the level of the foreign ministers."

Bradtke told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty the shuttle round included "new ideas" which the mediators first presented to Nalbandian and Mammadyarov at a Paris meeting earlier in November -- the first high-level contact between the countries since an August scandal triggered when an Azerbaijani army officer who killed an Armenian colleague in Hungary was released from prison.

No new presidential-level meetings are currently on the agenda, Popov said, while Faure told the Azerbaijani APA news agency Nalbandian and Mammadyarov could talk again this week in Dublin at the 19th OSCE Ministerial Council.

"The bottom line is that the ministers are ready to continue working on the conflict's peaceful resolution," the French diplomat said.

The talks have remained stalled following Baku's August pardoning of Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov, who had been convicted of killing of Armenian serviceman Gurgen Markaryan in Hungary eight years ago.

The Azeri courts issued a pardon for Safarov after he was extradited from Hungary, where he had been sentenced to life in prison. He was greeted by Aliyev as a national hero and promoted to major after the extradition.

That move upset Armenia and brought condemnation from the United Nations. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in September Safarov's attack on Markaryan was clearly ethnically motivated.

In last month's talks, the Minsk Group mediators voice concerns over Armenia's plans to launch commercial flights to Nagorno-Karabakh's newly reconstructed airport in Stepanakert, calling for a diplomatic solution after the move brought protests from Baku, RFE/RL reported.

Azerbaijan considers the enclave to be illegally occupied by Armenia and thus it contends flights to and from the facility would be made across its airspace without authorization, in violation of civil aviation treaties.

Agshin Mehdiyev, Baku's ambassador to the U.N., in October urged member nations not to use the airport.

"Such (flights) clearly display a manifest disregard for international law, undermine the peace process and aggravate regional security concerns," Mehdiyev said in his appeal.

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