The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to meet later this month in an effort revive the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, international mediators announced after ending a fresh tour of the conflict zone in Yerevan on Tuesday.
“The Presidents have confirmed their intention to meet in November 2013 to clarify their positions on a settlement and to discuss the way forward,” the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Groups said in a joint statement issued shortly after their talks with Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian.
“The Co-Chairs continue to work on arrangements for the forthcoming summit,” added the statement. “The Co-Chairs call upon the sides to exercise restraint on the ground as well as in their public statements. Military action, particularly at this moment, can only be seen as an attempt to damage the peace process.”
The mediators met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Monday. Igor Popov, the Russian co-chair, said afterwards that Aliyev agreed to meet his Armenian counterpart for the first time in nearly two years.
“We’re trying to facilitate the meeting,” James Warlick, the chief U.S. negotiator, told reporters before the meeting with Sarkisian the following day. Warlick spoke of a new “window of opportunity” for a Karabakh settlement emerging after recent presidential elections held in the two South Caucasus states.
The mediating troika has repeatedly stated that that an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit could break the impasse in its long-running efforts to broker a peace deal.
U.S. President Barack Obama urged Aliyev and Sarkisian to meet soon in separate letters that were handed to them by Warlick in 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 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 difference at a meeting in Russia in June 2011.