The parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have pledged to honor a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped heavy fighting between their troops, international mediators said on Saturday at the end of their visit to Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group rushed to the region early this week following the outbreak of worst hostilities along the Karabakh “line of contact” since 1994.
“Our main task was to help the parties stabilize the situation and take measures to prevent a repeat of hostilities,” Igor Popov, the Russian co-chair, told a news conference in Yerevan.
“I want to stress that it was not part of our mandate to conduct an investigation as to who started the fighting first and who is responsible for it,” he said.
“The overall conclusion drawn from our talks is that the parties intend, or at least they are showing readiness, to maintain the ceasefire that was agreed in Moscow on Tuesday,” added Popov.
Nagorno Karabakh - Children play on the street in Nagorno-Karabakh's city of Stepanakert, April 7, 2016
The mediators met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian earlier in the day. They met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku before proceeding to Karabakh for similar talks with the unrecognized republic’s leadership on Thursday.
In Popov’s words, the conflicting parties assured the mediating troika they are also committed to restarting negotiations on a mutually acceptable political agreement to end the Karabakh conflict. “There is an understanding that it’s necessary to return to political discussions,” said the Russian envoy.
Popov also confirmed that the co-chairs stand by a framework peace accord drafted by them about a decade ago and repeatedly modified since then. It is based on the internationally recognized principles of non-use of force, territorial integrity of states, and peoples’ right to self-determination.
The proposed Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement contain what Popov called “six elements.” The most important of them, he said, is a mechanism for determining Karabakh’s status and a “return of territories” around Karabakh also controlled by the Armenian side.
The Basic Principles reportedly call for a future referendum in Karabakh on the disputed territory’s status. The conflicting parties have until now disagreed on practical modalities of such a vote and other important details of the peace deal.
Popov further made clear that the Karabakh Armenian leaders should join peace talks held by Yerevan and Baku “at a certain stage.” That could happen after the parties agree on the Basic Principles and start discussing a comprehensive peace accord, he said.