Deadly ceasefire violations in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone will likely decrease after the weekend Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Russia, President Serzh Sarkisian said in an interview broadcast on Monday.
Sarkisian also indicated that he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev did not narrow their differences on a framework peace accord proposed by international mediators at their talks in Sochi that were hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nor did they agree any dates for their next meeting, he told the Armnews TV channel.
Speaking after the trilateral meeting on Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov likewise said that the conflicting parties continue to disagree on several important details of the Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement jointly drafted by Russia, the United States and France. “As they say, the devil is in the details, and the most difficult issues have not been solved yet,” he told reporters, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Nevertheless, Lavrov called the Sochi summit “useful.” He said Aliyev and Sarkisian reaffirmed their stated commitment to the principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity of states and peoples’ right to self-determination that are at the heart of the proposed settlement.
“The presidents expressed readiness to continue their dialogue, and Russia, as one of the [Minsk Group] co-chair countries, will contribute to that in any way,” added Lavrov.
In Sarkisian’s words, Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks still center on the most recent version of the Basic Principles which were nearly accepted by him and Aliyev at a 2011 summit held in another Russian city, Kazan. “We have been conducting negotiations on the Kazan document, and that is the 2011 document which Azerbaijan’s president refused to sign at the last minute, he said.
The peace process has been effectively deadlocked since the Kazan summit. Aliyev and Sarkisian raised fresh hopes for a breakthrough in the protracted peace process at their previous meeting held in Vienna last November. However, a subsequent increase in truce violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border precluded further progress towards mutual compromise.
Fighting on the frontlines intensified further late last month, making the prospect of another full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war as real as ever. It left at least 16 Azerbaijani and 7 Armenian soldiers dead. Putin’s decision to invite the leaders of the two warring nations to Sochi underlined the gravity of the situation. Both men pledged to seek a peaceful resolution of the bitter dispute during the talks.
Sarkisian told Armnews, “I don’t think that [ceasefire violations] will continue with the same intensity first of all because the incidents showed that the Armenian armed forces completely control the situation and all Azerbaijani attempts certainly failed.”
Both sides have already reported a decrease in shooting incidents in the last few days.
Sarkisian again blamed Baku for the escalation, saying that it was aimed at putting pressure on the American, Russian and French mediators and intimidating the Armenian side. “They wanted to show themselves and others than they are strong, that their armed forces are combat ready, that they can, as they put it, punish the Armenian armed forces. But as we can see, that delusion has left them in an unfavorable position,” he claimed.
“These events demonstrated just how far our armed forces have gone in improving their professionalism,” he added.
Echoing statements by other Armenian leaders, Sarkisian also portrayed the outcome of the latest upsurge in violence as a serious setback for the Azerbaijani military. He said it is further proof that Baku cannot achieve a military superiority over the Armenians and end the Karabakh conflict by force with massive arms acquisitions.
“I sometimes think that some people in Baku spend evening hours playing computer war games,” he said. “They need to realize that the virtual world is one thing and reality another thing.”
Aliyev held Armenia responsible for the deadly fighting and praised the Azerbaijani army when he visited troops stationed east of Karabakh last week. He claimed that they have left the Armenians “in a state of panic.”