Russia is trying to organize renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations in an effort to prevent another escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday.
In an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency, Lavrov also renewed his calls for the conflicting parties to accept “effective” safeguards against truce violations that are favored by Russia, the United States and France. He said bolstering the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone is now the most immediate priority of the three mediating powers co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group.
“We plan [peace talks on Karabakh] because the matter requires utmost attention,” Lavrov said. “I think that we will work out the first contact soon.”
The talks will involve the warring sides as well the U.S., Russian and French mediators, he added without specifying possible dates or giving other details.
Armenia made clear after last month’s four-day hostilities in Karabakh that it will not negotiate with Azerbaijan unless the latter agrees to the confidence-building measures. The most important of them is the idea of international investigations of armed incidents along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Lavrov again stressed the importance of these measures that have been opposed by Azerbaijan until now. “The most important thing now is to avoid any new casualties, prevent any ceasefire violations and develop effective measures and mechanism for that,” he said. “The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed up to that when they were hosted by our president five years ago.
“They spoke out in favor of a mechanism for investigations of incidents and boosting confidence and assigned the OSCE to work on that. OSCE representatives outlined different versions of such a draft. Unfortunately, things did not move beyond that stage in 2012 or around that time. We now want the parties to return to that.”
The proposed truce safeguards are now “as timely as never before,” said Lavrov. “We are going to concentrate on that,” he added.
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian reaffirmed on Wednesday Yerevan’s strong support for these measures, saying that they would “preclude the reoccurrence of what happened in the beginning of April.”
“Such concrete steps could allow us to restore an environment favorable for negotiations and to continue the peace process,” Nalbandian told a meeting in Prague of foreign ministers of Eastern European countries and ex-Soviet states involved in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program.
Nalbandian’s Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, also attended and addressed the meeting. “The Armenian side is continuing its provocations on the Karabakh Line of Contact,” he reportedly said at an ensuing news conference in the Czech capital.
Lavrov told RIA Novosti that despite the heightened tensions Moscow also hopes to revive the difficult search for a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict. “Obviously, things should calm down now,” he said. “But there is no alternative to the political process and settlement.”
“There are known ideas that were discussed by the parties,” Lavrov went on. “I remain convinced that it is difficult but possible to formalize them into documents that would be acceptable to all parties.”
The Russian minister seemed to refer to the Basic Principles, a framework peace accord that was first drafted by the mediators a decade ago and has been repeatedly modified since then. The proposed settlement calls for a future referendum on Karabakh’s status that would be held after Armenian withdrawal from districts surrounding the disputed territory.