U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met with President Serzh Sarkisian late on Wednesday during a visit to Yerevan that apparently focused on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sarkisian’s office said the two men “exchanged thoughts on issues of regional security and the process of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.” It gave no details of that discussion.
The talks came ahead of a fresh meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijan presidents which is expected to be hosted by Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev on March 5. Medvedev and Sarkisian will likely discuss preparations for the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit when they meet in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg on Friday.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group called for “decisive action” towards Karabakh peace after visiting Yerevan and Baku earlier this month. The mediators also urged the conflicting parties to “show restraint both on the ground and in their public statements.”
Both sides have continued to report deadly skirmishes between their forces deployed around Karabakh since then.
The U.S. national intelligence director, James Clapper, reportedly expressed concern about the ceasefire violations during congressional hearings in Washington last week. He warned of a further escalation of tensions along the heavily militarized frontline.
Steinberg, who was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, arrived in Yerevan on the first leg of a tour of the three South Caucasus states as well as Bosnia and Albania.
“They will meet with leaders to discuss bilateral issues and regional security,” the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday. “They will also engage civil society representatives and media in each country.”
According to Sarkisian’s office, Steinberg stressed the fact that it is his third visit to Armenia in two years. He said this as well as Sarkisian’s recent talks in Munich Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and an April 2010 visit to Washington testify to the “strength of the ties between our countries.”