Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan pledged to reinvigorate the protracted search for a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during face-to-face talks held in Vienna on Tuesday.
Neither man made any statements to the press after their two-hour meeting, the first in nearly two years, mostly held in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
Sarkisian uttered only one word as he emerged from a conference room in the Austrian capital. “Normal,” he said when asked by RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) to describe the talks.
“During their private one-on-one meeting and the working session afterward with the Co-Chairs and the Ministers, the Presidents discussed a broad range of issues related to the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the co-chairs said in an ensuing joint statement.
Austria - Meeting between the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev in Vienna, 19Nov2013
“The Presidents agreed to advance negotiations toward a peaceful settlement,” read the statement. “They instructed their Foreign Ministers to continue to cooperate with the Co-Chairs to build on the work to date with the aim of intensifying the peace process. They agreed to meet again in the months ahead.”
The mediators also announced that they will arrange another meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers and again visit the conflict zone before the end of this year. It remained unclear whether they presented Aliyev and Sarkisian with any new peace proposals.
The two leaders already pledged to intensify the peace process at their previous meeting held in Russia in January 2012. The process has remained effectively deadlocked since then, however.
The United States appears to have been the main driving force behind the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani summit, with President Barack Obama personally urging Aliyev and Sarkisian in September to resume their direct contacts. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had phone conversations with both presidents ahead of the Vienna talks.
“I talked with both President Aliyev and President Sargsian in the last 72 hours and they are meeting shortly,” Kerry told reporters in Washington on Monday. “We are urging that process to move forward, and we will continue to be engaged in that.”