A senior European Union diplomat on Wednesday praised continuing international efforts to de-escalate and resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said the EU looks forward to further Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
“We have some reason to believe that such attempts are being made to find a peaceful solution,” Herbert Salber, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “We are quite hopeful that after the [Armenian-Azerbaijan] summits in Vienna and Saint Petersburg now the leaders of the region together with the mediators are working seriously towards such a solution.”
Salber referred to the May 16 and June 20 meetings of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents that were held following the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict in over two decades. Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev are expected to hold more face-to-face talks later this year.
“The European Union feels encouraged by that,” Salber said after meeting with Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian during his latest visit to Yerevan.
The EU envoy expressed support for international mediators’ efforts to get the conflicting parties to take confidence-building measures that would minimize the risk of renewed ceasefire violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Those include independent investigations of armed incidents there that would be conducted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“If implemented, they would be helpful in achieving one very important short-term goal: keeping the situation on the Line of Contact quiet, without hostilities,” Salber said. “This would facilitate further negotiations.”
“I can hardly imagine that you could have serious negotiations in an atmosphere in which we have to expect an escalation on the Line of Contact almost on a daily basis,” added the diplomat.
Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan has opposed these proposed safeguards against truce violations until now. Aliyev reaffirmed Baku’s opposition to the idea of OSCE investigations shortly after the Saint Petersburg summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 20.
Salber also voiced EU concerns over Armenian allegations that Azerbaijani forces beheaded three Armenian soldiers and mutilated the dead bodies of more than a dozen others during the April 2-5 fighting around Karabakh.
“Such a behavior is completely unacceptable and should be investigated,” he said. “Those who committed such crimes should be brought to justice.”
Azerbaijan’s government and military deny the allegations.