The United States and Russia on Thursday urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to avoid a further escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and start negotiating on a “comprehensive” peace accord.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also called for “additional actions to reinforce the ceasefire” in the conflict zone that was undermined by recent upsurges in deadly violence. They cited in that regard the November 12 downing by Azerbaijani forces of an Armenian combat helicopter, which reignited tensions between the warring sides.
In a joint statement that was also signed by a senior French official, Kerry and Lavrov avoided explicitly blaming either party for the incident, calling it an “avoidable tragedy that underscored the importance of measures by the sides to reduce tensions.” “We appeal to all sides to demonstrate restraint to prevent further escalation,” read the statement issued after their talks in Switzerland.
The statement said that Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan agreed to “intensify” their search for a mutually acceptable peace formula at their last meeting held in Paris in late October. It said Sarkisian and Aliyev should adopt a framework peace deal drafted by the U.S., Russian and France as “the basis for a comprehensive settlement.”
“Negotiations on a comprehensive peace agreement under the auspices of the [OSCE Minsk Group] Co-Chair countries should begin as soon as possible,” added the statement.
The idea of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks on a final and comprehensive accord has for years been advanced by Baku. The Armenian side has dismissed it until now, arguing that the conflicting parties have yet to bridge their differences on the Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the three mediating powers.