U.S., Russian and French mediators sought to keep up the fresh momentum in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process during yet another tour of the conflict zone which they ended in Yerevan on Monday.
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian the day after holding talks with their Azerbaijani counterparts, Ilham Aliyev and Elmar Mammadyarov, in Baku.
The co-chairs did not immediately make statements on their talks. James Warlick, the chief U.S. negotiator, called the talks with Aliyev “productive.” Writing on Twitter on Sunday, he said both Aliyev and Sarkisian are “seeking a path to peace.”
Sarkisian’s office said the Armenian president and the mediators discussed plans for another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit early next year. It gave no further details.
Sarkisian and Aliyev revived hopes for a Karabakh settlement when they met in Vienna on November 19 for the first time in nearly two years. Their foreign ministers held follow-up talks in Kiev on December 4. Mammadyarov said afterwards that he and Nalbandian discussed the substance of a possible peaceful settlement for the first time since 2011.
The mediators’ latest round of shuttle diplomacy was marred by a shooting incident on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border that left one Armenian soldier dead. The soldier, Hrant Poghosian, was shot and killed by Azerbaijani forces at a western section of the frontier on Saturday.
Nalbandian complained to the visiting mediators about the incident and accused the Azerbaijani side of ignoring their calls for bolstering the ceasefire in the conflict zone. In a statement issued on Monday, the Armenia Defense Ministry said its troops have been ordered to take “preventive and tough” actions against Azerbaijani army units.