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U.S., Russia Defend Karabakh Peace Efforts


Serbia -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) invites US Secretary of State John Kerry to a sitting area as he arrives for their bilateral meeting alongside the annual OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in B

Serbia -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) invites US Secretary of State John Kerry to a sitting area as he arrives for their bilateral meeting alongside the annual OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in B

The United States, Russia and France on Thursday questioned Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s commitment to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while urging both sides to avoid further ceasefire violations and “intensify their dialogue.”

In a joint statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and France’s European Affairs Secretary Harlem Desir also vowed more joint peace efforts by diplomats from the three mediating powers co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group.

“Over the past year, we have witnessed increasingly vocal attacks on the Co-Chairs and the Minsk Group format,” they said. “We emphasize that the Minsk Group remains the only accepted format by the sides and has the full confidence of all OSCE participating States.”

“Any attempts to blame the Co-Chairs for setbacks in the negotiation process only mask the primary obstacle to peace - the lack of political will in Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach a negotiated settlement,” added the statement issued during an OSCE ministerial meeting in Serbia. It said the two sides should therefore “dispel any misperceptions that they are not serious about reaching a negotiated settlement.”

The statement did not specify what Kerry, Lavrov and Desir see as unjustified criticism of the mediators. While each conflicting party has criticized the mediators for not openly blaming the other for the deadlock in the Karabakh peace process, Armenia continues to regard the Minsk Group as the only viable and legitimate format for the conflict mediation.

Azerbaijan has been far more critical of the co-chairs’ activities. An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman described them as “meaningless” last month.

Kerry, Lavrov and Desir also said that they look forward to “the upcoming meeting” of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, which the mediators hope will help to revive the peace process and defuse increased tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and “the line of contact” around Karabakh.

“With the significant escalation in violence along the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border this year, the status quo has become unsustainable,” they warned. “We especially condemn the use of mortars and other heavy weaponry, and regret deeply the civilian casualties these weapons have caused. There is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

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