French President Francois Hollande and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by phone late on Thursday after it emerged that France has offered to host the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit.
The Kremlin singled out international efforts to end the conflict in its readout of the phone call. It said Putin briefed Hollande on the outcome of the most recent meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents hosted by him in Saint Petersburg on June 20.
“The leaders of Russia and France expressed hope that the results achieved at that meeting will contribute to the advancement of the peace process,” read the Kremlin statement. “They agreed to continue joint active work in this important direction within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.”
Hollande’s press office did not issue statements on the conversation as of Friday afternoon. France co-chairs the Minsk Group together with Russia and the United States.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev met on June 20 for a second time since the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting around Karabakh that threatened to escalate into an all-out war. In a joint statement with Putin, they said they reached an “understanding” on unspecified issues hampering a peaceful settlement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov may try to build up on the progress apparently made at Saint Petersburg when he visits Yerevan and Baku early next week.
Earlier on Thursday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said that France has offered to organize soon the next Aliyev-Sarkisian meeting. “We don’t mind,” Mammadyarov was reported to say after talks in Baku with his visiting German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Official Yerevan effectively confirmed the French proposal on Friday. Still, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian criticized Mammadyarov for disclosing a “proposal that is still the process of being agreed upon.”
Kocharian also accused Baku of distorting “the essence of the negotiation process.” He referred to Aliyev’s latest remark Karabakh could only be granted the status of an autonomous Azerbaijani region as a result of the peace process.
Speaking to the Armenpress news agency, Kocharian insisted that “realization of the Nagorno-Karabakh people’s right to self-determination” must be at the heart of any Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord.
In a June 25 speech, Aliyev also rejected the idea of OSCE investigations of ceasefire violations in the conflict zone which has been put forward by the mediators and backed by Armenia.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Lavrov and a French cabinet member said after the May 16 Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Vienna that both Aliyev and Sarkisian agreed to take this and other measures designed to bolster the ceasefire regime.
Kerry discussed the matter in separate phone calls with Aliyev and Sarkisian on Thursday. According to the U.S. State Department, he urged the two leaders to “fulfill the commitments, including implementation of the two confidence-building measures, they made at the May 16 meeting in Vienna.”