Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not press Armenia to make unilateral concessions to Azerbaijan during his latest visit to Yerevan, his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian insisted on Sunday.
He said Lavrov focused instead on “confidence-building” measures in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone during talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Nalbandian held on Friday.
Lavrov travelled to Armenia more than two weeks after Russia helped to stop the heaviest fighting in and around Karabakh since 1994, which broke out on April 2 and left at least 160 soldiers from both sides dead. The visit came amid intense Armenian and Russian media speculation that Moscow is now seeking to revive the Karabakh peace process at the expense of more Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan.
The Russian minister made no mention of any compromise peace accords at a joint news conference with Nalbandian. Instead, he stressed the importance of maintaining and strengthening the truce through confidence-building measures that have long been advocated by Russia as well as the two other mediating powers, the United States and France.
Nalbandian dismissed the speculation as “fabrications” and baseless “rumors.” “No such thing was discussed during Lavrov’s visit,” he told reporters when asked about Armenian territorial concessions allegedly sought by Moscow.
Nalbandian insisted that the Basic Principles of resolving the Karabakh conflict, which have been jointly drafted by the U.S., Russian and French mediators, remain the basis for Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations. Lavrov did not bring any separate Russian peace plans to Yerevan, he said.
“If the peace proposals made [by the three mediating powers] had been beneficial to Azerbaijan, then it would not have pushed itself into deadlock and opted for hostilities [on April 2,]” claimed Nalbandian.
The Basic Principles, repeatedly modified by the mediators, call for a phased settlement that would end in a referendum on Karabakh’s internationally recognized status. The vote would be held years after Armenian withdrawal from virtually all districts around Karabakh.
Meeting with Lavrov, Sarkisian said that with its offensive operations in Karabakh Baku further complicated the search for a peace deal along those lines.
Nalbandian too spoke on Sunday of a “serious blow” dealt to prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh dispute. Still, he stressed that there is “no alternative” to renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. “Baku will have to return to the negotiating table,” he added.