U.S., Russian and French mediators on Friday again urged the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to “adhere strictly” to ceasefire agreements after hosting a meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.
Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov met in Munich late on Thursday shortly after holding separate talks with the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Andrzej Kasprzyk, the top OSCE official monitoring the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone, was also present at the Nalbandian-Mammadyarov meeting.
“The Co-Chairs reiterated that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution to the conflict and that war is not an option, and called upon the sides to exercise restraint on the terrain as well as in their public communications and to prepare their population for peace and not for war,” the mediators said in a joint statement.
They warned that the use of force by either party “would be condemned by the international community.”
Truce violations along “the line of contact” around Karabakh have intensified in recent weeks after several months of relative calm that followed four-day hostilities there in April 2016. The warring sides have accused each other of using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades on a virtually daily basis. The Karabakh Armenian military says Azerbaijani troops have also shelled its frontline positions with light cannons.
The mediators said they discussed with Mammadyarov and Nalbandian concrete steps which they believe should be taken to implement confidence-building agreements that were reached by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at their last two meetings held in May and June last year.
The agreements call for concrete measures designed to prevent armed incidents on the Karabakh frontline and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Those include international investigations of truce violations and deployment of more OSCE observers. Armenia claims that Azerbaijan has been dragging its feet over these safeguards.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Nalbandian told the co-chairs that Baku is still ignoring their appeals for peace and resorting to ceasefire violations. The ministry issued no statements on his ensuing talks with Mammadyarov.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry also gave no details of what it called a “joint dinner” of Mammadyarov, Nalbandian and the mediators. A ministry statement made no mention of the truce safeguards sought by the latter. It said Mammadyarov discussed with Richard Hoagland, Igor Popov and Stephane Visconti ways of “intensifying the negotiation process.”
In their joint statement, Hoagland, Popov and Visconti said they also called on both sides to “demonstrate greater flexibility and resume comprehensive negotiations on reaching a lasting settlement as soon as possible.”
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev hinted at progress towards such a settlement after their June 2016 summit in Saint Petersburg which was hosted by their Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Sarkisian and Aliyev were expected to meet again later in 2016. However, the follow-up summit never took place.