U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has held separate talks with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in Washington to discuss ways of breaking the current impasse in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Kerry singled out the unresolved dispute as he greeted Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov at the U.S. State Department on Tuesday and Monday respectively.
“It is critical that all the parties … try to find a way to help break the impasse that has kept this struggle alive and always potentially dangerous,” he told Nalbandian before they negotiated behind the closed doors.
Kerry underlined Washington’s “big interest” in a peaceful settlement of the conflict in his opening remarks at the meeting with Mammadyarov. “The last thing we want is a return to war and to conflict,” he said. “I believe there is a path forward, and we will continue to work quietly and patiently in an effort to try to encourage the parties to be able to take either confidence-building measures that may get to further down the road or to find a way towards a settlement with respect to this issue.”
“Both have been close before, and at the last minute things have happened that have denied everybody that opportunity,” he added.
Azerbaijani news agencies quoted Mammadyarov as saying after the talks that the United States wants to push the stalled peace process forward. But he would not say if any concrete agreements to that effect were reached in Washington. Mammadyarov also announced that he will meet with the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in London on Friday.
It was not clear if the three mediators plan to meet with Nalbandian as well. The Armenian minister and his press office made no statements immediately after the meeting with Kerry.
The co-chairs visited Baku and Yerevan late last month. They said they are now trying to organize a fresh meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev criticized the mediating troika shortly after that round of shuttle diplomacy. He complained that it is now keen to bolster the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone instead of helping his country regain control over Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.