International mediators met with President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan on Wednesday during yet another regional tour aimed at facilitating the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sarkisian’s office said the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group discussed with him “further steps” to be taken in the protracted negotiating process after a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani summit hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi on March 5.
A statement by the office said Sarkisian reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment to honoring agreements reached there. Those include the exchange of prisoners of war, the conduct of an OSCE investigation into recent ceasefire violations around Karabakh and other confidence-building measures in the conflict zone.
The co-chairs, who met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Tuesday, again avoided any contacts with media in Yerevan. They were due to proceed to Stepanakert later on Wednesday for talks with Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership.
The Minsk Group’s French co-chair, Bernard Fassier, told reporters in Baku that the OSCE’s top field representative in the conflict zone, Andrzej Kasprzyk, has already started an inquiry into the truce violations that continued even after the 5 talks in Sochi.
The conflicting parties have accused each other violating the agreements reached there. Aliev on Tuesday again blamed Armenian forces for last week’s death of a 9-year-old resident of an Azerbaijani village east of Karabakh. “This shows that the Armenian side does not respect even its own signature,” the APA news agency quoted him saying after talks with Switzerland’s visiting Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.
Meeting with the mediators Sarkisian rejected these allegations as “absolute slander.” He also pointed to the deadly shooting of a Karabakh Armenian soldier reported last week.
Both Yerevan and Baku have said at the same time that the Sochi summit brightened prospects for a Karabakh settlement. Each party claims that the other has adopted a more flexible position
“I think that the Armenian side now understands more clearly than it did last year that the only way to establish peace and stability in the region is to start pulling out of [occupied] Azerbaijani territories,” Aliyev said. He also repeated that Baku is only ready to grant Karabakh “a status of self-rule.”
The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have repeatedly ruled out any settlement that would put the disputed territory back under Azerbaijani control.