Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, the current chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, backed on Wednesday international mediators’ calls for the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents to meet again and try to revive the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
“The status quo is not really an option and we have to move towards peace step by step,” he said after talks held in Yerevan with President Serzh Sarkisian.
Burkhalter, who visited Azerbaijan earlier this week, pointed to French President Francois Hollande’s readiness to host the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh. “We express our strong support for this initiative,” he told a joint news conference with Sarkisian. “The new meeting between the presidents should be the starting point for a new phase that should lead to a peace agreement.”
Neither leader commented to the likelihood of such a summit in the coming weeks or months. They stressed instead the importance of bolstering the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone.
“We agreed that there can be no military solution to the problem and that it would only compound the problem,” said Sarkisian. “Threats of use of force and periodical ceasefire violations cause a great deal of damage to the negotiation process.”
Hollande offered to arrange Sarkisian’s fresh talks with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Paris when he visited Baku and Yerevan last month. France as well as the United States and Russia have been trying to broker a Karabakh settlement under the aegis of the OSCE’s Minsk Group co-headed by them.
Diplomats from the three mediating powers visited Yerevan, Stepanakert and Baku later in May. They announced no agreements on the next Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting.
Aliyev and Sarkisian revived hopes for Karabakh peace after they met in Vienna last November for the first time in almost two years. The Minsk Group co-chairs planned to organize their follow-up encounter early this year. However, it was postponed indefinitely following an upsurge in truce violations and fresh recriminations traded by the conflicting parties.