Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents on Monday again pledged to prevent ceasefire violations and said they reached an “understanding” on issues hampering the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh during talks mediated by their Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
In a joint statement with Putin, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev gave a positive assessment of their meeting, the second in just over a month, held in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
“There was a detailed exchange of views on essential aspects of the settlement,” read the statement. “The heads of state noted the reaching of understanding on a number of issues solutions to which would help to create conditions for progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.”
It did not specify what those issues are. None of the three leaders spoke to the press immediately after the meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that they “mapped out concrete steps to intensify the negotiation process.” But he too did not elaborate.
“The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere,” Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said for his part. “Azerbaijan positively assesses the results of the Saint Petersburg negotiations.”
U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group joined Putin, Aliyev and Sarkisian at the final session of the talks. James Warlick, the U.S. negotiator, reported afterwards “positive steps” taken at the summit.
“We must work towards a negotiated settlement,” Warlick wrote on Twitter.
Warlick’s Russian opposite number, Igor Popov, also spoke of some progress made at Saint Petersburg in comments to Armenian Public Television.
Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (L) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian meet in St. Petersburg, June 20, 2016
Putin hosted the summit just over a month after Aliyev and Sarkisian met in Vienna following the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict in more than two decades. They agreed in the Austrian capital to work out safeguards against ceasefire violations around Karabakh and resume their search for a compromise peace deal.
Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who mediated those talks, said the safeguards include independent investigations of armed incidents that would be conducted by the OSCE.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders reaffirmed on Monday their commitment to the Vienna agreements. According to their statement, they specifically agreed to expand the number of OSCE field representatives periodically monitoring the ceasefire regime along the Karabakh “line of contact.”
The statement made no specific mention of the OSCE investigations, however.
Sarkisian stressed the importance of creating “mechanisms for investigating truce violations” when he held separate talks with Putin earlier in the day. “That would create a businesslike atmosphere in negotiations,” he said in televised remarks.
The situation on the Karabakh frontlines appears to have been unusually calm since the May 16 summit in Vienna. There have been fears, however, that tensions there could again rise after the Saint Petersburg summit.
In their joint statement, Aliyev and Sarkisian noted with “satisfaction” that the truce has largely held lately.