The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group met with Armenia’s leaders on Wednesday at the start of a fresh round of regional shuttle diplomacy aimed at brokering a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh.
The mediators refused to talk to media as they proceeded to the presidential palace in Yerevan after talks with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. “We won’t be answering any questions,” the group’s French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
President Serzh Sarkisian’s office gave no details of his meeting with the mediators. A separate statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Nalbandian discussed with them the results of his January 24 meeting in Moscow with the Azerbaijani and Russian foreign ministers.
None of the three ministers issued any statements after the Moscow meeting. They already met in the Russian capital on December 9, just over a week after the failure by Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents to reach any agreements on the margins of an OSCE summit held in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The co-chairs are scheduled to travel to Stepanakert on Thursday and end their regional tour in Baku later this week.
“We have no special expectations from their visit,” Davit Babayan, a spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It’s just another opportunity to exchange thoughts over processes going on in the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict and regional developments in general.”
Babayan made clear that the Karabakh Armenian leadership expects no breakthrough in the negotiating process this year. “The status is the most realistic scenario,” he said.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), an international think-tank, warned on Tuesday that the deadlock in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks is increasing the likelihood of another war in Karabakh. “Escalating frontline clashes, a spiraling arms race,
vitriolic rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace talks increase the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war over Nagorno-Karabakh,” it said in a report.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday that it has ordered its forces to take “large-scale measures” against what it called increased Azerbaijani sniper activity along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact.” “Worrisome developments are taking place in Azerbaijan, and we are taking appropriate steps to strengthen our defense,” ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
“We will mainly be taking defensive measures that will hurt those on the Azerbaijani side who will dare to take offensive actions,” Karapetian said. He refused to go into details.