Armenia accused Azerbaijan of reversing progress made by their presidents at their last meeting as international mediators began on Friday a new round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at pushing forward the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group began their latest regional with talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held in Yerevan. They will travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and meet with its ethnic Armenian leadership on Saturday before proceeding to Baku through “the line of contact” east of the disputed territory.
Sarkisian’s office gave no details of the talks, saying only that the Armenian president discussed with the mediators “further steps” in the negotiation process. The Armenian Foreign Ministry issued a more detailed statement that quoted Nalbandian as saying that Azerbaijan “has again taken a step back” after renewed hopes for a breakthrough that were raised by the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Vienna last November.
Nalbandian said his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov has rejected an unspecified proposal made by the mediators “in accordance with understandings reached by the two presidents in Vienna.” He went on to claim that Baku is hampering progress in the long-running negotiations and “thereby doing everything to maintain the status quo.”
The co-chairs began their latest regional tour four days after the 20th anniversary of a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped the war in Karabakh. In a joint statement issued on the occasion, they said both conflicting parties have “have shown little willingness to … make the political decisions necessary for progress in this peace process.” They urged the sides to build on last November’s “promising renewal of dialogue.”
“The status quo is unsustainable and increasingly dangerous, and the worst outcome would be renewed conflict,” James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair, told 1news.az on Thursday. “My challenge to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan is that they meet again soon and we begin peace negotiations that can result in an agreement to resolve the conflict.”
“Peace is within grasp if there is the political will,” Warlick said. “If not now, when?”