U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group have met with Armenia’s and Nagorno-Karabakh’s leaders as part of their continuing efforts to relaunch Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.
The three mediators met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan on Saturday at the start of their latest tour of the Karabakh conflict zone. They then proceeded to Stepanakert for similar talks with Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, that were held on Monday. They are expected to travel to Baku later this week or early next.
The envoys gave few details of their talks when they spoke to reporters in the Karabakh capital. “France, the United States and Russia are making every effort to achieve progress on this issue,” Stephane Visconti, the Minsk Group’s French co-chair, was reported to say.
Neither the mediators nor official Armenian sources specified whether they pressed for the conduct of high-level Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations. Visconti’s American opposite number, Richard Hoagland, expressed hope in March that Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will “prepare the ground” for a meeting of their presidents.
The two ministers reported no agreements to that effect after they last met in Moscow in April. Nalbandian said on May 30 that an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit is unlikely to be organized “for the time being.”
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev most recently met in Vienna and Saint Petersburg in May and June last year. The Karabakh peace process has been essentially deadlocked since then.
Meeting with Visconti, Hoagland and Russia’s Igor Popov on Saturday, Nalbandian accused Baku of continuing to ignore their calls for the conflicting parties to comply with confidence-building agreements that were reached by Aliyev and Sarkisian last year. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, he said the mediators should take “concrete actions” in order to “rein in this unconstructive and provocative policy by Azerbaijan.”
Sahakian likewise accused Baku of continuing ceasefire violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” when met with the co-chairs in Stepanakert. The spokesman for the Karabakh leader, Davit Babayan, was quoted by Artsakhpress.am as stressing the importance of bolstering the ceasefire regime.
Babayan also said that the warring sides still have a “long way to go” to resolve the conflict. Their positions on a peaceful settlement are “almost diametrically opposite,” he said.