The United States, Russia and France on Thursday urged Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents to resume their face-to-face negotiations and honor confidence-building agreements reached by them at their last two meetings.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault said Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev should “demonstrate flexibility and to return to the negotiation table.”
“Unless progress can be made on negotiations, the prospects for renewed violence will only increase, and the parties will bear full responsibility,” they said in a joint statement issued during an annual ministerial conference of the Organization for Security and Conference in Europe (OSCE) held in Hamburg, Germany.
Kerry, Lavrov and Ayrault, whose countries co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group on Karabakh, said they stand ready to co-host the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit soon. “We firmly believe that the Presidents need to engage in negotiations in good faith at the earliest opportunity” they said.
Kerry, Lavrov and another senior French official mediated one such summit in Vienna in May shortly after the worst fighting around Karabakh since 1994. Aliyev and Sarkisian agreed there on the mediators’ long-standing proposals aimed at minimizing ceasefire violations in the conflict zone.
Those included international investigations of armed incidents and the expansion of an OSCE mission periodically monitoring the ceasefire regime along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the Karabakh frontlines.
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed last month that Aliyev objected to such investigations at a follow-up meeting with Sarkisian held in Saint Petersburg in June. Armenian official say that the peace process will remain essentially deadlocked unless Baku agrees to this and other confidence-building measures.
“We urge the parties to remove all remaining obstacles to expanding the mission of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and to make progress on a proposal to establish an OSCE investigative mechanism,” read the joint statement by Kerry, Lavrov and Ayrault. The parties should also “adhere strictly” to ceasefire agreements brokered by Russia in 1994 and 1995, it said.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was quoted by the APA news agency as saying in Hamburg that further discussions on the proposed safeguards against truce violations should be “synchronized” with “substantive negotiations on the conflict’s resolution.”
The top U.S., Russian and French diplomats, for their part, said that the safeguards should be put into practice “together with the immediate resumption of negotiations on a settlement.” That settlement, they stressed, must be based on a framework peace accord advanced by the three mediating powers for the past decade.
The repeatedly modified accord, known as the Basic Principles, calls for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts around Karabakh which were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1994. That would be followed by a legally binding referendum in which Karabakh’s predominantly Armenian population would determine the disputed territory’s internationally recognized status. The warring sides disagree on some crucial details of this peace formula.
The American, French and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Hamburg. They were also due to hold separate talks with Mammadyarov. As of Thursday evening, it remained unclear whether Mammadyarov and Nalbandian will meet on the margins of the OSCE forum.