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Kerry Holds Phone Talks With Armenian, Azeri Leaders(UPDATED)


Austria - Azerbaijan's, Armenia's Presidents and OSCE Minsk Group Foreign Ministers meet over Nagorno-Karabakh, Vienna, May 16, 2016

Austria - Azerbaijan's, Armenia's Presidents and OSCE Minsk Group Foreign Ministers meet over Nagorno-Karabakh, Vienna, May 16, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Thursday to discuss further steps in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

“He noted positively that the ceasefire along the Nagorno-Karabakh Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border has largely held in recent weeks, and urged the Presidents to avoid ‎tensions to advance the peace process,” the U.S. State Department said in a readout of the phone conversations.

“Secretary Kerry asked the Presidents to fulfill the commitments, including implementation of the two confidence building measures, they made at the May 16 meeting in Vienna, Austria, and the June 20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia,” it said.

“The Secretary also reiterated the United States’ support for substantive talks that can lead to a comprehensive settlement, and urged the Presidents to continue their dialogue under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs,” added the statement.

President Serzh Sarkisian’s office confirmed that he spoke with Kerry about the implementation of the measures designed to strengthen the ceasefire. It gave no details.

Reporting on Kerry’s separate phone call with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijani news agencies said the two men agreed that the recent Armenian-Azerbaijani summits gave Karabakh peace process “new impetus.”

Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir chaired the Aliyev-Sarkisian encounter in Vienna. In a joint statement issued in the Austrian capital, they said the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents pledged to strengthen the shaky ceasefire regime around Karabakh, including through independent investigations of armed incidents there.

Aliyev contradicted that statement on June 25, however, saying that such investigations would only “freeze” the Karabakh conflict.

Aliyev’s and Sarkisian’s meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia was hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a joint statement with Putin, they said they reached an “understanding” on unspecified issues hampering a Karabakh settlement.

The Azerbaijani APA news agency quoted James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, as saying on Thursday that the U.S., Russian and French mediators plan to organize another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit soon.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov confirmed the possibility of such a meeting. He indicated that its date and venue could be determined after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visits to Yerevan and Baku slated for the beginning of next week.

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