Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers have traded fresh accusations of obstruction of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process ahead of their possible meeting in Germany early next month.
The U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group said last week that they will hold talks with the two men on the sidelines of the OSCE’s annual ministerial conference that will be held in Hamburg on December 8-9. According to Azerbaijani officials, Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov are due to hold a face-to-face meeting there.
“The format of the meeting on Nagorno-Karabakh which could take place in Hamburg has not yet been ascertained,” Nalbandian said in Yerevan on Tuesday.
“We will wait and see developments and the co-chairs’ proposals on holding such a meeting. What is certain is what there will be [separate] meetings with the three [Minsk Group] co-chairs,” he told a joint news conference with Italy’s visiting Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Nalbandian claimed that Azerbaijan is impeding progress in the peace talks by making “maximalist statements” on the Karabakh settlement and refusing to take confidence-building measures that were agreed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at their last two meetings held in May and June.
Nalbandian also pointed to large-scale military exercises launched by Azerbaijan this week. He portrayed them as further proof that Baku is “again escalating the situation” on the Karabakh frontlines.
Mammadyarov claimed the opposite after meeting with Gentiloni in Baku on Monday. “The Armenians themselves are saying that they are not prepared for a change of the [Karabakh] status quo,” he was reported to say.
“I would have liked to make an optimistic statement but the Armenian side continues to drag out the conflict’s resolution,” added the Azerbaijani minister.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev agreed to allow the OSCE to deploy more truce observers in the conflict zone and investigate armed incidents there at their May meeting held in Vienna. The meeting chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came more than a month after an outbreak of the heaviest fighting around Karabakh since 1994.
Aliyev and Sarkisian signaled further progress after holding follow-up talks hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg in June. French President Francois Hollande afterwards offered to organize another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Paris, stoking speculation that the two sides might be close to a breakthrough. However, there have been no indications yet that such a meeting is imminent.
The U.S., Russia and French mediators said on October 26 that they will discuss with Mammadyarov and Nalbandian in Hamburg the possibility of arranging another Aliyev-Sarkisian encounter “at the earliest opportunity”.
“Such a dialogue at the highest level is necessary to make progress towards a settlement,” the Minsk Group co-chairs said in a joint statement issued after their latest visit to Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan.