International mediators called for “decisive action” to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute late on Friday after ending a fresh tour of the conflict zone with talks in Baku with President Ilham Aliyev and other senior Azerbaijani officials.
In a joint statement, the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said “there has been positive movement as a result of the work that has been done since the October 2010 Astrakhan Summit” of the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian presidents.
“In that context, they urged the sides to make further progress to allow the peace process to proceed to its next phase,” said the statement. “The Co-Chairs pledged their support for the sides as they make the necessary decisions to reach a peaceful settlement.”
“To promote a climate conducive to peace, the Co-Chairs again urged the sides to show restraint both on the ground and in their public statements,” it added.
Official Azerbaijani sources gave no details of the talks with the visiting mediators. Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Safar Abiyev was only quoted by his press office as telling the mediators that Baku is making “serious preparations for the de-occupation of its lands.” The office did not elaborate.
Official Yerevan was similarly tight-lipped about the results of their Wednesday talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and other Armenian leaders.
The co-chairs were scheduled to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday. However, the trip was cancelled at the last minute, ostensibly because of poor weather.
Bernard Fassier, the French co-chair, told journalists at Baku airport on Thursday that the mediating troika is continuing to seek the acceptance by both parties of “basic principles” of a Karabakh settlement proposed by it.
The Itar-Tass news agency quoted Russia’s ambassador to the OSCE headquarters in Vienna, Anvar Azimov, saying the same day that the mediators are now “laying the appropriate groundwork” for another meeting of the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian presidents. He did not say when such a meeting could take place.
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev already hosted three rounds of face-to-face negotiations between Aliyev and Sarkisian last year. They did not yield a breakthrough.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian did not mention the possibility of yet another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit as he spoke at a joint news conference with his visiting Ukrainian counterpart, Konstantin Grishchenko, on Friday. He again accused Baku of impeding further progress in the peace process.
Nalbandian also dismissed the latest report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a respected international think-tank, warning of a growing risk of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war for Karabakh. “Different experts may have different opinions on the same subject, which are far from reality,” he said.
Nalbandian added that foreign observers should consult with the mediators before trying to “pour petrol on the fire.” “Even in terms of expert evaluations, forecasts, one should first of all hear the opinion of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said.
The minister did not specify which concrete parts of the report he considers inaccurate.
“Escalating frontline clashes, a spiraling arms race, vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh,” says the ICG report released on Tuesday. It urges the parties to formally endorse the proposed basic principles, “reduce belligerent rhetoric,” and strengthen the ceasefire in the conflict zone.