Diplomats are expressing cautious optimism about the February 10 summit between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Paris suburb of Rambouillet. According to sources close to the negotiators, the differences are narrowing between the two sides on a framework agreement on the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Much of the recent optimism surrounding the Karabakh peace process was generated by May15-16 discussions between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov, will meet in London on 15 April to discuss new proposals drafted by the OSCE Minsk Group for resolving the Karabakh conflict, a Moscow correspondent for RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 5 April quoting Yurii Merzlyakov, the Russian Minsk Group Co-chairman.
As they look back at 2004, both Armenia and Azerbaijan are claiming that fresh hope now exists for a permanent peace agreement on the status of the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet for all the official optimism, few concrete results exist to point to anything but more of the same impasse.
It could be viewed as a success. According to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, 21 percent of refugees in Armenia have gained Armenian citizenship since 1995. That, says the UNHCR, is one of the highest rates of voluntary naturalization anywhere in the world in recent decades.
Over the past month and a half, two souvenir currency notes from Nagorno-Karabakh have unleashed a storm of accusations and counter-accusations between Azerbaijani officials and representatives of the Armenian-controlled, self-styled republic of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On May 12, 1994, a ceasefire brought a halt to fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a conflict that embroiled Armenia and Azerbaijan and Karabakh Armenians. In the decade since then, the two countries, along with representatives of the unrecognized Karabakh Republic, have been unable to agree on a political settlement.