Russia insisted that it is not trying to sideline other international mediators in seeking a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh as its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again visited Armenia on Monday.
Lavrov arrived in Yerevan to take part in a regular session of the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and four other ex-Soviet states aligned in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
He held talks with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian on the sidelines of the one-day gathering. The Karabakh peace process was most probably high on the agenda of the talks.
Russia took the lead in international efforts to de-escalate the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict following the April 2 outbreak of heavy fighting along “the line of contact” around Karabakh. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a fresh meeting of his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in Saint Petersburg on June 20.
The meeting fueled speculation among Armenian media commentators and other observers that Moscow is now pushing for a compromise peace deal on its own, without coordinating with the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group: the United States and France.
Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, categorically dismissed that speculation. “There were concerns that Russia is allegedly establishing a monopoly on the negotiation process, does not want to share information and so on,” she told reporters in Yerevan. “But during and after the Saint Petersburg meeting everyone was able to see that the [U.S. and French] mediators were sufficiently informed and did not feel isolated from the process.”
“We perfectly understand the significance of the Minsk Group format and respect it,” said Zakharova, who accompanied Lavrov on his trip.
Lavrov discussed the Karabakh issue with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a weekend phone reported by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Kerry held phone talks with the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on Friday.
The unresolved conflict also reportedly dominated Putin’s June 30 phone conversation with French President Francois Hollande. The two leaders spoke shortly after it emerged that Hollande has offered to host the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Paris.
Zakharova would not be drawn on possible dates of that meeting. “We can only say that the president, the foreign ministry and, in essence, the entire Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation are working hard in that direction,” she said. “That is being done on a bilateral and multilateral basis and within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group.”