Nagorno-Karabakh’s armed forces held military exercises on Friday as the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Moscow for fresh talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France.
The drills involving a Karabakh army regiment as well as warplanes and combat helicopters were monitored by Bako Sahakian, the president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and Armenia’s Defense Seyran Ohanian.
Sahakian’s office said the participating troops fired live rounds to test and improve their “combat shooting” skills. It quoted the Karabakh Armenian leader as promising continued support for the military.
According to the Azerbaijani APA news agency, the “large-scale exercises” took place near a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” east of Karabakh. It said the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard on the opposite side of the frontline. “The movement of enemy hardware is clearly visible from [Azerbaijani] territory close to the line of contact,” reported APA.
In Moscow, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammdyarov met in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. “They discussed a possible summit meeting between the [Armenian and Azerbaijani] Presidents in the near future, and acknowledged the urgency of further progress on the substantive issues,” the three mediators said in a joint statement. “The Co-Chairs again emphasized to the Ministers the need to take concrete steps to reduce tensions in the region and advance the peace process.”
They mediators reported no possible dates for the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit, suggesting that the conflicting parties remain far apart on the main sticking points hampering a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev briefly spoke to each other when they attended an international conference on nuclear security in The Hague late last month. “Are they really committed to finding a way to Nagorno-Karabakh peace?” James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair, tweeted afterwards.