International mediators announced no possible dates for the next meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents as they ended their latest tour of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone in Yerevan on Wednesday.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group held talks with President Serzh Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian the day after meeting their Azerbaijani counterparts in Baku.
The mediators sought to follow up on the most recent round of Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations that were organized by them in Paris on January 24. They were expected to prepare for the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit aimed at building on progress reportedly made by the conflicting parties late last year.
However, the Paris talks were overshadowed by an upsurge in ceasefire violations on “the line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which each party blamed on the other. The co-chairs warned in the French capital that such incidents “diminish the prospects for peace.”
They announced no agreements on the summit in their public statements made in Yerevan. “It is still too early to speak of that,” Igor Popov, the Russian co-chair, told reporters shortly before the meeting with Sarkisian.
“In order for the two presidents to meet, we need to complement the package of proposals with adequate and substantial provisions. We are working on that right now,” Popov said without elaborating.
“I don’t know when the next meeting of the presidents will be,” James Warlick, the chief U.S. negotiator, told Armenian civil society representatives earlier in the day. “We need to work towards it. We want to make sure it’s a productive one and it’s up to the presidents to decide.”
“It’s not easy to find the way forward, but I do think that there is a sincere effort underway,” he said. “But it needs to be underpinned by Track Two [diplomacy,] by people-to-people [contacts.]”
Official Armenian and Azerbaijani sources did not mention the next meeting of Sarkisian and President Ilham Aliyev in their statements on the mediators’ trip. In particular, Nalbandian was quoted by his press service as complaining about “continuing Azerbaijani provocations” on the frontlines. He also reaffirmed Yerevan’s support for the mediators’ earlier calls for joint Armenian-Azerbaijani investigations into truce violations.
According to Popov, the mediators discussed not only ways of bolstering the ceasefire regime but also substantive issues related to their Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement. He said those discussions were “quite constructive.” “But of course not all issues have been solved,” added the Russian diplomat. “There are still a number of differences. We keep working on them.”