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Wednesday, 14 August 2002

PRESIDENTS OF AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIA TO MEET ON AUGUST 14

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By Gulnara Ismailova (8/14/2002 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Another meeting between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Heydar Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, is scheduled to take place on August 14 on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border near Sadarak in Nakhchivan, as reported by the press service of the Azerbaijani president's office. However, there are no details about negotiations.

On 10 August, before his departure to Nakhchivan, Aliyev said that "Foreign mediators initiated this meeting.

Another meeting between the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Heydar Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan, is scheduled to take place on August 14 on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border near Sadarak in Nakhchivan, as reported by the press service of the Azerbaijani president's office. However, there are no details about negotiations.

On 10 August, before his departure to Nakhchivan, Aliyev said that "Foreign mediators initiated this meeting. The presidents of the two countries were recommended to hold a new meeting, since the last such meeting was nine months ago. We will discuss many things".

Not counting their meeting at the November 30, 2001 CIS summit in Moscow, the two Presidents have not met for one-on-one negotiations since in Paris in January 2001 and in Key-West in April 2001. The OSCE Minsk Group's co-chairmen held consultations in Vienna on July 25-26, and the two Presidents personal representatives on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Araz Azimov and Tatul Markaryan, met in Prague on May 12-15 and on July 29-30, indicating a new momentum leading up to this meeting.

In Prague, views on how to solve the conflict were exchanged, the current situation was discussed, as were plans for the nearest future, the possibility to add a series of issues to the next proposal of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen. Minsk Group co-chairs Rudolf Perina (USA), Hugo Pernet (France) and Nikolay Gribkov (Russia) participated in the meeting. It was rumored that a possible meeting of the two heads of state could take place in Turkey, but this turned out to be unacceptable for President Kocharyan.

Strange as it may seem, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen had no information in advance about the forthcoming meeting of Azerbaijan and Armenia presidents. Speaking to Baku newspaper "Zerkalo", Grybkov noted that "At this moment my colleagues from the U.S. and France are on vacation. Arrangement for this meeting between the two presidents was reached via their personal channels. But we do want the presidents to reach concrete understandings during this meeting".

The political situation in which the meeting is taking place is interesting. Both presidents have tried to create a favorable situation for themselves in these negotiations. From the beginning of this year, Heydar Aliyev intensively worked on improving Russian-Azerbaijani relations. Agreements were signed on the Gabala radio station, an earlier point of contention between the two countries, and on a judicial base for deepening trade and economic relations. Moscow and Baku have also reached an understanding on the Caspian sea status Moreover, there is an improved situation in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. In May this year, a treaty about friendship and cooperation was signed, which created grounds for improving economic relations. And Iranian Minister of information and security Ali Yunisi's visit to Baku was of particular significance.

Thus for the first time in the past decade, Armenia's main regional allies have come closer to Azerbaijan. The war with Azerbaijan and bad relations with Georgia do not create a favorable background for successful regional diplomatic activity for Armenia. Azerbaijan, on the contrary, has concluded a trilateral treaty on security with Georgia and Turkey. In addition, Armenian diplomacy is less than successful with global power centers. A worsening of Armenian-American relations has been observed in the past six months. The U.S. is very displeased with Armenian companies' dealings with Iran in components of nuclear weapons, received from Russia and Belarus.

The last six months forced Armenia to soften its policy on Turkey, admitting Ankara's role as one of the key players in the region, and to take into consideration its political presence in the region. As a result, the political situation at the regional and global levels weaken President Kocharyan's negotiating position.

Experts do not forecast any concrete results from the Sadarak negotiations. Most likely, this meeting is mainly intended for international mediators, as a demonstration of activity and an inclination to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Former Azerbaijani parliamentarian Jumshud Nuriev recently stated that Kocharyan needs this meeting more than Aliyev. Armenian Ex-president Levon Ter-Petrossian more and more actively and persistently proposes to return to the political arena, with his step-by-step approach to the resolution of the conflict. Former state advisor Vafa Guluzade was more pessimistically disposed. "While it is very difficult to foresee what issues will be discussed due to the confidentiality of negotiations, the possibility of an exchange of territories does not seem possible. I do not expect significant results from this meeting. We have nothing to discuss. Armenians gave us the only choice. They declare that Nagorno Karabakh and Lachin already belong to Armenia. Armenia must leave all occupied Azerbaijani lands and fulfill resolution of UN Security Council". Former Minster of foreign affairs Political scientist Rasim Musabekov argued that there cannot be any serious agreements on the threshold of presidential elections in Azerbaijan and Armenia.  The two sides once again try to create an appearance of a continuation of dialogue.

Gulnara Ismailova

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