Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents will likely meet soon, international mediators indicated after holding fresh talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the foreign ministers of the two countries over the weekend.
The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group met separately and then jointly with Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“The main aim of the consultations was to discuss the current situation in the conflict zone, to explore ways to reinvigorate the negotiation process, and to prepare for the upcoming summit between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan,” they said in joint statement.
They said they hope that the summit will help the conflicting parties eventually “find compromise solutions to the remaining key settlement issues.” “The Ministers expressed their commitment to work with the Co-Chairs to prepare for a successful summit in the near future,” added the statement.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries confirmed that the New York talks focused on preparations for the planned meeting of Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev. But like the co-chairs, they gave no possible dates for it. It was announced instead that the mediating troika will again tour the conflict zone early next month.
Also, Mammadyarov was reported by Azerbaijani news agencies to voice support for “some interesting proposals put forward by the co-chairs for continuing substantive negotiations” on a Karabakh settlement. He did not elaborate.
Aliyev and Sarkisian traded fresh recriminations when they addressed the UN General Assembly last week. In particular, Aliyev described his Armenian counterpart as a “war criminal.” He also blasted the international community for not helping Azerbaijan regain control over Karabakh.
Sarkisian announced in July a “preliminary agreement” on the conduct of his face-to-face talks with Aliyev this fall. “My expectations from the meeting are not big,” he said.
The two presidents most recently met in May and June 2016 shortly after four-day deadly hostilities around Karabakh that nearly denigrated into an all-out war. They agreed to allow the OSCE to deploy more field observers in the conflict zone and investigate truce violations occurring there. They also hinted at progress towards a peaceful settlement.
The peace process again stalled in the following months, however. The Azerbaijani government has since been reluctant to implement the agreed safeguards against renewed fighting, saying that they would cement the status quo.