A senior European Union diplomat met with Armenia’s leaders in Yerevan on Tuesday to discuss ways of reviving the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process after last month’s escalation that nearly triggered a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Herbert Salber, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, met President Serzh Sarkisian, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian as part of international efforts to prevent another flare-up of violence in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Salber also held separate talks in Yerevan with Karen Mirzoyan, the foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The Armenian presidential press office said Sarkisian and Salber stressed the importance of specific confidence-building that would reduce the risk of renewed fighting along “the line of contact” around Karabakh. It said Sarkisian briefed the visiting envoy on the consequences of “Azerbaijan’s destructive and bellicose stance.” The Armenian leader also called for international condemnation of war crimes which he said were committed by the Azerbaijani military in Karabakh.
A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Nalbandian and Salber “exchanged views on the possibilities of resuming the negotiation process.”
Nalbandian reaffirmed Armenia’s preconditions for renewed peace talks with Azerbaijan. Those include acceptance by Baku of a mechanism for international investigations of ceasefire violations in the conflict zone. Yerevan says that this and other confidence-building measures proposed by international mediators would prevent the kind of heavy fighting that broke out along the Karabakh “line of contact” on April 2.
“In Edward Nalbandian’s words, these steps would create appropriate conditions for continuing the negotiation process,” said the Foreign Ministry statement.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov criticized the Armenian preconditions late last month.
Russia, which helped to stop the bloody fighting on April 5, has repeatedly called on the conflicting parties in recent weeks to agree to the proposed safeguards against truce violations. France, another mediating power, has said that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should also deploy observers and gunfire-locator systems on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines. The Armenian side has voiced support for these proposed measures.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry also announced that Nalbandian will visit Paris and meet with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Thursday. Mammadyarov, meanwhile, flew to Berlin on Tuesday for talks with Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Ayrault and Steinmeier separately phoned their Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts on April 2 just hours after the outbreak of the hostilities in and around Karabakh.
Germany is the current holder of the OSCE’s rotating presidency, while France co-heads the OSCE Minsk Group on Karabakh together with the United States and Russia.
American, French and Russian diplomats acting under the aegis of the group toured the conflict zone in the wake of the April escalation. They have yet to schedule more such trips or talks with Armenian and Azerbaijani officials.