Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to take confidence-building measures that would reverse the latest upsurge in fighting around Nagorno-Karabakh.
Speaking after talks with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Lavrov said a “de-escalation” of the Karabakh conflict is essential for resuming “substantive negotiations” on its peaceful resolution.He also admitted that the conflicting sides are still far apart on “two or three” elements of a framework peace accord that has for years been advanced by the Russian, U.S. and French mediators.
Lavrov noted that the parties broadly agree on the peace formula envisaging Armenian withdrawal from “districts around Karabakh” and a decision on the disputed territory’s status which would “take into account the opinion of the people living there.”
“On most of these aspects of a final settlement we have an agreement, but two or three topics, which are key to the final package, are still being discussed,” he told a joint news conference with Mammadyarov.“We are still far from seeing a situation where the parties will work out a common approach to these remaining issues.”
The chief Russian diplomat did not disclose these sticking points, saying only that he discussed them with Mammadyarov in detail.
Lavrov went on to stress: “In the existing conditions, before we can resume substantive negotiations on settling the remaining issues it is every important to achieve a de-escalation of the situation on the ground which has escalated on the Line of Contact and in the public domain lately.”
Ceasefire violations around Karabakh have intensified in recent weeks, with each side accusing the other of using mortars on a daily basis. At least five Azerbaijani soldiers were killed on February 25 in what Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army called Azerbaijani attacks at two sections of the “line of contact” repelled by its frontline troops. The Azerbaijani military denied launching incursions there, despite admitting that its soldiers died in the no-man’s land just east of Karabakh.
Lavrov said the two sides should specifically implement confidence-building measures that were agreed by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at their last two meetings held in May and June 2016. Those included the deployment of more OSCE observers and international investigations of armed incidents on the frontlines. Yerevan says that Baku is reluctant to implement these safeguards.
Mammadyarov on Monday praised Moscow’s “very serious steps” on Karabakh and said he is encouraged by his “detailed” discussions with Lavrov regarding “which direction we should move.” He said progress in the negotiation process hinges on Armenia’s acceptance of “proposals that are on the table.” He did not elaborate.