The escalation of violence around Nagorno-Karabakh over the last year undermines not only the international mediation efforts, but also the commitment of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents to resolve the conflict peacefully, Ambassador James Warlick, the United States co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, said in the first-ever interview of a peace broker with a Karabakh-based media outlet.
Warlick has answered a number of questions from Artsakhpress, a news agency in Stepanakert, concerning the Karabakh settlement process as well as the mediators’ latest tour of the region that included stops in the capitals of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Asked whether there are any concrete proposals that are being put at the table during the meetings with all the three sides, the American co-chair of the group said that the mediators “first and foremost are talking to the sides about recent tension and violence that threaten the region.”
“There cannot be progress on the diplomatic track if violence continues. We are also raising with the sides the need to resume meetings of the presidents, who hold the keys to peace in their hands. Additionally, we stress the importance of beginning comprehensive negotiations on a lasting settlement. It is critical to have a sustained negotiating process that can lead to a peace agreement,” Warlick said.
The Azerbaijani side has also addressed the issue of the “big peace agreement”, accusing Armenia of avoiding the start of this “serious process”.
In an interview with the Azerbaijani news agency, APA, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Haciyev said that during the visit of the co-chairs to the region, Baku again expressed its readiness for serious talks, but Armenia, according to him, refused to start the work on the big peace agreement until the principles [of settlement] are agreed.
“I wonder what these principles are. Hasn’t Armenia stated at all levels about its support for the updated Madrid principles before?” the Azerbaijani official said.
Haciyev described as “ridiculous” the initiative of the Armenian foreign minister who, he said, during the talks with the OSCE Minsk Group suggested that Nagorno-Karabakh become a full party to the negotiation process.
Answering Artsakhpress’ question on whether the restoration of a trilateral format of negotiations involving Nagorno-Karabakh as a full party could be crucial in moving the negotiations forward, the OSCE Minsk Group’s American co-chair said: “The interests of all sides will need to be taken into account in the negotiations, as well as in a settlement to the conflict. The first step is for the sides to express their readiness to enter into such negotiations.”
The OSCE Minsk Group jointly headed by the United States, Russia and France has for more than two decades tried to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
More than 30,000 people were killed in the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s.