Armenia will not resume negotiations on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict unless Azerbaijan agrees to safeguards against ceasefire violations proposed by international mediators, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Monday.
In an interview with the Bloomberg news agency, Sarkisian also said that heavy fighting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh could again break out “at any moment.” A Russian-brokered truce, which stopped four-day hostilities there on April 5, may not be enough to prevent another flare-up of violence, he warned.
Sarkisian made clear that it is “unreasonable” for Armenia to return to peace talks with Azerbaijan without security guarantees because “the situation is entirely different now.” “On the one hand we’d be talking somewhere while, on the other, military officials would be engaging in war here to try to settle the conflict,” he said.
Sarkisian said the Russian, U.S. and French mediators acting under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group must therefore put in place “confidence-building measures” before any new peace talks. He singled out “an investigation mechanism for violations of the cease-fire that would pinpoint exactly which party” is responsible. Armenia also requires “assurances that these kinds of violations will not happen again,” he added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged the warring sides to accept these proposed measures without “further delay” during a visit to Yerevan last week. Unlike the Armenian side, Baku has opposed them until now.
France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Desir also stressed the importance of the safeguards against truce violations on Monday as he visited Yerevan for talks with Armenian leaders dominated by the Karabakh issue. A statement by the Armenian presidential press service said Desir and Sarkisian agreed that the confidence-building measures are critical for renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
“The resumption of peace negotiations and introduction of confidence-building mechanisms will be the main focus of the political meetings that I will have in Yerevan today and in Baku tomorrow,” the Armenpress news agency quoted the French official as telling reporters earlier in the day.
Sarkisian also told Bloomberg that as things stand now, there is no place for Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone to separate the two sides. While talk of Russian forces being deployed “wasn’t entirely without grounds” in previous peace negotiations, “I don’t see any such opportunity” now, he said.
“If there are no negotiations, how can Russian forces appear in Karabakh or between Azerbaijani and Karabakh forces?” said the Armenian president.