The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan avoided holding more face-to-face talks on the sidelines of an informal summit of seven former Soviet republics held in Yalta, Ukraine over the weekend.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s office said their leaders discussed ways of boosting “economic integration” within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It reported no separate meetings between Sarkisian and other participants, among them Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents have often used CIS summits for negotiations on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Sarkisian’s spokesman, Armen Arzumanian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service ahead of the summit that no such meeting is planned at Yalta.
Aliyev and Sarkisian already held talks in Saint Petersburg, Russia, hosted by Medvedev, as recently as on June 17. They were followed by the most serious Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire violation in Karabakh in over two years, which sharply heightened tensions between the conflicting sides and prompted serious concern from international mediators.
The United States, Russia and France have urged both sides to exercise restraint and iron out their differences on a framework peace accord proposed by the three mediating powers. The latter hope to broker further progress in the negotiating process at the upcoming meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.
However, bitter recriminations traded between Baku and Yerevan in recent days have called into question the success of that meeting. The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Friday strongly denied Azerbaijani claims that the Almaty talks will focus on details of Armenian troop withdrawal from Azerbaijani territories surrounding Karabakh. It accused Baku of seeking to torpedo the peace process earlier in the week.
A spokesman for Bako Sahakian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said on Monday that the authorities in Stepanakert have no expectations from the Almaty meeting because of Azerbaijan’s “extremely non-constructive” position. “It leaves no room for the search for a mutually acceptable compromise solution,” Davit Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Babayan pointed to Azerbaijani leaders’ insistence that the principle of territorial integrity take precedence over that of peoples’ self-determination championed by the Armenian side. “They must understand one thing. For Karabakh, a return to 1988, in terms of both the status and territory, is out of question,” he said.