International mediators should step up their efforts to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday during talks in Moscow with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov.
“There are grounds to think that now is the time to intensify our efforts at the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.
He said Russia believes it can help the conflicting parties make more progress towards a peace deal together with the United States and France, the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. “We remain in constant touch with them, and they regularly communicated with us,” he added, according to TASS.
Mammadyarov was cited by another Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, as saying that this week’s landmark agreement ending a long-running international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program bodes well for a Karabakh settlement. No other details of the talks were reported.
Lavrov and Mammadyarov met ahead of next week’s visit to the conflict zone by U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. The diplomats were in Washington last week, holding meetings at the U.S. State Department and National Security Council on the current state of the Karabakh peace process.
James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair, travelled to Moscow on Monday for further “consultations” on the issue with Lavrov’s deputy Grigory Karasin and other Russian officials. In an interview with the Russian daily “Vedomosti” published on Tuesday, Warlick reaffirmed the mediators’ plans to arrange a fresh meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents later this year.
Warlick also indicated that the mediators will not radically revise their Basic Principles of Karabakh peace, which envisage a gradual settlement ending in a referendum on the Armenian-controlled territory’s status. “We are not trying to invent new issues or approaches,” he said.
The envoy further insisted that the West’s standoff with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine has not affected U.S.-Russian cooperation on the Karabakh issue. “There is tension in our relations but it doesn’t apply to this issue,” he said. “This is an area where Moscow’s and Washington’s views really converge.”