Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakarian denied on Thursday any connection between last week’s Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Geneva and subsequent deadly ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev met in Geneva on October 16. In a joint statement issued there, their foreign ministers and international mediators said the two leaders “agreed to take measures to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact.” They said the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group are satisfied with the summit and are planning to hold follow-up talks with the two ministers.
Just three days later, an Armenian soldier was shot dead in Karabakh by Azerbaijani sniper fire. The Azerbaijani military reported that Armenian forces killed one of its soldiers on Sunday. Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said the Azerbaijani side shelled its frontline positions with mortars and anti-tank weapons later on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. No major truce violations have been reported since then.
“Linking the tension to the Geneva meeting is totally inappropriate,” Zakarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “There has periodically been tension on the border. It results from one fact: inside Azerbaijan they don’t come to terms with the reality that there is no alternative to the realization of Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination. At the same time I presume that that is also an opportunity to solve some issues in Azerbaijan.”
Speaking right after the Geneva summit, Sarkisian again ruled out any peaceful settlement that would lead to the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. That statement angered Azerbaijani officials. They accused the Armenian president of breaching understandings reached with Aliyev.
Sarkisian shrugged off those accusations on Wednesday. “We spoke one on one, and if we agreed not to tell anyone [details of the conversation,] then how did [Aliyev’s] aides familiarize themselves with the subject?” he told senior military officials in Yerevan. “I can assure you that I have not uttered even half a word about our conversation in any other place.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday Moscow regrets the fact that “the state of affairs in the conflict zone remains uneasy.” “We are calling on Yerevan and Baku to demonstrate a constructive approach to looking for solutions to unresolved issues,” the ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told reporters.
At the same time, Zakharova welcomed the warring sides’ stated readiness to intensify the negotiation process and bolster the ceasefire regime.
For his part, the Minsk Group’s U.S. co-chair, Andrew Schofer, told the Armenpress news agency that the Geneva meeting was a “positive sign of commitment by both presidents” to seek a Karabakh settlement. Schofer also said that he and fellow mediators from Russia and France expect to meet the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in the next few weeks.