A senior U.S. diplomat expressed hope on Tuesday that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet again this month in a further attempt to revive the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
In a series of tweets, James Warlick, Washington’s chief Karabakh negotiator, at the same time cited fears that the crisis in Ukraine could heighten tensions in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone.
“I have heard concerns that, while attention focuses on Ukraine, violence could escalate between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Should we worry?” Warlick wrote after he and fellow OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs representing Russia and France met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Paris.
Russia’s controversial military intervention in Ukraine has put Moscow at loggerheads with Western powers and is threatening to trigger their most serious confrontation since the end of the Cold War. Such a standoff would call into question continued U.S.-Russian mediation of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
Warlick endorsed on Sunday an Armenian official’s Twitter remark that the United States and Russia continue to work together on a Karabakh settlement “regardless of other disagreements.”
“We hope the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet this month. Only they can address the most difficult issues of peace,” the U.S. mediator wrote on his Twitter page on Tuesday.
President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev revived hopes for a peace deal when they met in Vienna last November for the first time in almost two years. They agreed to meet again early this year to try to build on some progress that was apparently made by them. The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers and the Minsk Group co-chairs have since been preparing for the follow-up summit.
The mediators hoped to organize the summit in February. However, its conduct was delayed by a January upsurge in deadly ceasefire violations on “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The conflicting parties blamed each other for the escalation.
The next Sarkisian-Aliyev meeting most probably topped the agenda of the mediators’ talks with Mammadyarov. Warlick described them as “productive” but did not go into details.
The mediators were due to fly to Moscow and meet with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian there later in the day. Nalbandian told reporters in Yerevan on Monday that the “intensive” negotiation process is paving the way for his next meeting with Mammadyarov. But he made no mention of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit sought by the mediating troika.