Seeking to break the deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry organized a fresh meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of a NATO summit late on Thursday.
The three men spoke for about two hours in the presence of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers and senior U.S. diplomats in a gold resort in Wales. No concrete agreements were announced after the talks.
According to the U.S. State Department, Kerry urged Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev to “strictly respect the ceasefire and take additional steps to prepare their publics for peace.” He at the same time praised Sarkisian and Aliyev for “agreeing to continue their dialogue on key elements of a settlement,” said a spokeswoman for the department, Marie Harf.
“He called on the sides to enter into a more formal negotiation process under the auspices of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs as proposed by the Swiss Chairman-in-Office at the OSCE,” Harf said in a press communique. “A sustained process is necessary to increase trust between the sides and build momentum towards a lasting peace that the people of the region deserve.”
“The parties presented their positions in the negotiating process,” Sarkisian’s office said for its part. It said Kerry urged the two sides to reduce tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone, take confidence-building measures and demonstrate “the political will” to reach a compromise settlement.
Just before the trilateral meeting with Kerry, Sarkisian and Aliyev held separate talks with French President Francois Hollande. According to Sarkisian’s office, they discussed yet another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit which Hollande hopes to host soon. It gave no possible dates for that encounter.
Hollande called on Aliyev and Sarkisian to meet in Paris when he visited Baku and Yerevan in June. The U.S., and French and Russian mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Groups had tried in vain to arrange such a meeting earlier this year, hoping that it will kick-start the stalled peace process.
Aliyev and Sarkisian met in the Russian city of Sochi on August 10 only after a sharp escalation of deadly fighting along “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Ceasefire violations there have decreased dramatically since those talks mediated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Addressing the NATO summit earlier in the day, Sarkisian warned the U.S.-led alliance against adding pro-Azerbaijani wording to the final summit declaration which he said is sought by Turkey. Highlighting the current atmosphere in the Karabakh peace process, he also branded Aliyev a “dictator.”
“Either [the summit] will adopt the language of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is the only specialized international structure dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem … or will again succumb to lobbying by another member state aimed at saving the face of our dictator neighbor vis-a-vis his own people,” he said. “Believe me, that would not lead to any positive results.”
During its previous summits shunned by Sarkisian, NATO called for the resolution of ethnic disputes in the former Soviet Union reflecting only the principle of territorial integrity. A Karabakh settlement favored by the United States, Russia and France is also based on the principle of people’s self-determination.