The European Union is embarking on a dialogue Nagorno-Karabakh’s leadership, a senior EU diplomat reportedly said after holding talks with Karabakh Armenian representatives in Yerevan on Tuesday.
Herbert Salber, the EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus, met with Karen Mirzoyan, the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s foreign minister, during his latest visit to Armenia.
The unresolved Karabakh conflict was high on the agenda of Salber’s separate meetings on Monday with President Serzh Sarkisian, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian. According to official Armenian sources, they specifically discussed the recent upsurge in ceasefire violations in the conflict zone.
Salber underscored EU concerns about the escalation with his ensuing encounter with Mirzoyan. A statement by Mirzoyan’s office said the two men also “exchanged thoughts on possibilities of cooperation” between the EU and the Armenian-populated disputed territory.
“This was my first meeting with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Salber told News.am after the talks. “We will continue this dialogue and try to find ways of maintaining contacts.”
The EU already indicated three years ago its intention to establish direct contacts with the Karabakh Armenians, in an apparent effort to step up its support for Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council called at the time for “unconditional access for representatives of the EU to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.”
Earlier in February 2012, officials in Brussels told RFE/RL that the 28-nation bloc wants to have its diplomatic and other representatives visit Karabakh without prior permission from the Azerbaijani government. They said a lack of contacts with Karabakh Armenian leaders hampers greater EU involvement in the search for Armenian-Azerbaijani peace.
Mirzoyan similarly stressed the importance of “ensuring EU representatives’ unfettered entry” to Karabakh. He invited Salber to visit the territory and familiarize himself with the “existing realities” there.
Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry appeared to downplay the significance of the EU envoy’s meeting with Mirzoyan, saying that Baku was informed about it beforehand. According to the Trend news agency, a ministry spokesman also noted that Salber met with leaders of Karabakh’s former Azerbaijani community when he visited Baku in October.