The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as the top U.S., Russian and French diplomats may meet early next week in an attempt to de-escalate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, senior Russian diplomats said on Thursday.
The Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin as saying that the high-level talks will likely take place in Vienna on Monday. “Such a meeting is being prepared,” he said.
Both Karasin and the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev could be joined by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov of Russia and Jean-Marc Ayrault of France.
“A meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan is planned for next week in Vienna,” Zakharova told reporters.
Official Yerevan and Baku did not deny or confirm the planned summit.
Earlier in the day, the U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group urged Aliyev and Sarkisian to meet next week and agree on confidence-building measures that would prevent renewed heavy fighting around Karabakh.
“In light of the recent violence and the urgency of reducing tensions along the Line of Contact, we believe the time has come for the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to meet,” they said in a joint statement.
“Our Foreign Ministers are prepared to facilitate this meeting next week in Vienna,” they said. “Their main objectives will be to reinforce the ceasefire regime, and to seek agreement on confidence-building measures that would create favorable conditions for resuming negotiations on a comprehensive settlement on the basis of elements and principles under discussion.”
“There can be no success in negotiations if violence continues, and there can be no peace without a negotiation process,” added the U.S., Russian and French mediators. “We reiterate that there is no military solution to the conflict.”
Armenia said after the April 2-5 hostilities in Karabakh that it will not negotiate with Azerbaijan unless the latter agrees to safeguards against truce violations. 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 said last week that Moscow is now trying to organize Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations to prevent another escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “I think that we will work out the first contact soon,” Lavrov said.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the Kremlin would welcome “any steps aimed at de-escalating tensions in the conflict zone and returning to dialogue.”
Aliyev and Sarkisian most recently met in Switzerland in December. They failed to make any progress towards a peaceful settlement.