International mediators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continued their efforts to promote a peaceful solution to the protracted conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh as they paid fresh visits to Azerbaijan and Armenia this week.
On the second stop of their regional tour in Yerevan on Tuesday, the United States, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group met with the country’s leadership, including President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
While the mediators appeared to have brought no new proposals with them to the region, Ambassador James Warlick, the American representative in the group, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun) that their tour was “another opportunity to talk”.
A statement released by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said that during the meeting with the visiting mediators Minister Edward Nalbandian drew their attention to “continued gross violations of the ceasefire regime by Azerbaijan”. He also accused Baku of aiming to torpedo the peace process.
“When agreement is reached around the fundamental principles of settlement and Nagorno-Karabakh also agrees to them, at that time it will be possible to start negotiations among Azerbaijan, Artsakh [Karabakh] and Armenia on a comprehensive peace accord,” Nalbandian said.
The Armenian minister also insisted that the guilt of the two Azerbaijani citizens who were last year tried in Nagorno-Karabakh and convicted by a local court on charges of committing murder and other crimes was fully established.
Azerbaijan did not recognize the legality of the trial in which its citizens, Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev, were sentenced to life and 22 years in prison, respectively.
The case was also addressed in Baku by visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland. At a press conference on Tuesday she said she would talk about the release of the two Azerbaijanis held in Nagorno-Karabakh during her meetings with Armenian officials in Yerevan on February 18.
Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war in the early 1990s over the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian-populated region that was part of Soviet Azerbaijan.
Despite the ceasefire agreement signed in 1994, dozens of soldiers on both sides have been killed in border skirmishes every year since then.
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have reported more than a dozen casualties since the beginning of 2015. Azerbaijan also says a number of its soldiers were killed in skirmishes in the mentioned period. The conflicting sides have routinely accused each other of ceasefire violations.