The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan plan to meet later this year in an attempt to kick-start the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, international mediators said after organizing fresh talks between the foreign ministers of the two warring nations on Friday.
Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov met in New York in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session.
In a joint statement, the co-chairs said they discussed “the substance of the peace process” and again urged the conflicting parties to seek a Karabakh settlement based on “the non-use of force or the threat of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
“The Ministers reiterated their determination to continue working with the Co-Chairs to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict,” said the statement. “The Co-Chairs expect to visit the region in November to discuss with the Presidents their planned summit meeting later this year.”
The mediators have been trying to organize such a summit in the hope of ending the current impasse in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. They hoped that Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev will meet in June. However, the meeting did not take place for unclear reasons.
U.S. President Barack Obama implicitly urged Aliyev and Sarkisian to hold what would be their first face-to-face encounter in nearly two years, in separate letters that were handed to them by Washington’s chief Karabakh negotiator, James Warlick, in early September. “With the outlines of the compromise already well established, now is the time for a renewed effort to bring peace to the region,” Obama wrote.
Obama clearly referred to the Basic Principles of resolving the Karabakh conflict put forward by the three mediating powers. They call for an Armenian withdrawal from Azerbaijani districts surrounding Karabakh that would be followed by a referendum on the disputed territory’s status.
Yerevan and Baku claim to largely accept this peace formula. But they have so far disagreed on some crucial details of the proposed settlement. The peace process has been effectively deadlocked since Aliyev and Sarkisian came close to ironing out their differences at a meeting in Russia in June 2011.
Highlighting the impasse, Mammadyarov and Nalbandian reportedly traded fresh accusations as they addressed the UN General Assembly on Saturday. In particular, the Azerbaijani minister accused Armenia of seeking to cement the Karabakh status quo with actions running counter to international law. He again demanded an unconditional liberation of “Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.”
Nalbandian, for his part, claimed that Azerbaijan is ratcheting up tensions in the conflict zone through offensive arms acquisitions, truce violations and an intensifying “anti-Armenian rhetoric.” He said Baku is also “continuously rejecting all proposals by the mediators.”