Russia’s new top Nagorno-Karabakh negotiator visited Stepanakert on Thursday the day after holding talks in Yerevan with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian.
Sarkisian’s office gave no few details the talks. A short statement released by it said the Armenian leader and Igor Popov, the newly appointed Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, discussed “recent developments” in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiating process.
Popov proceeded to Stepanakert to meet Bako Sahakian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. “I am in a mood to make every effort to have the conflict resolved as soon as possible,” he told journalists afterwards.
The Russian diplomat said his meeting with the Karabakh Armenian leader focused on “socioeconomic problems” facing the disputed region. He said they also discussed the ongoing reconstruction Stepanakert airport.
Popov paid his first visit to Armenia and Karabakh in the current capacity one week after accompanying the Minsk Group’s outgoing Russian co-chair, Yuri Merzlyakov, on a trip to Baku. The two diplomats were joined there by their U.S. opposite number, Robert Bradtke, and received by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
In a subsequent joint statement also signed by the group’s French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, the mediators spoke of “a new impetus to the advancement of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the Madrid Principles.” They said they will meet in Vienna early next month to brief the Minsk Group on the current status of the Karabakh peace process.
Reports in Azerbaijani media said the mediators are pressing for yet another meeting of Aliyev and Sarkisian. The two presidents plan to fly to Moscow on May 8 to attend events marking the 55th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.