The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan reportedly agreed on Thursday to expand an international mission monitoring the ceasefire regime along the Nagorno-Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov held what the latter described as a “positive” meeting in the Polish city of Krakow to try to build on progress which they appeared to have made at their previous talks held in Vienna in December.
The three-hour meeting began in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French mediators leading the OSCE Minsk Group. The two ministers then spoke in a tete-a-tete format.
A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said they discussed “additional steps to ease tension in the conflict zone and possibilities of intensifying the negotiation process.”
“The sides agreed in principle to implement the decision to expand the capacity of the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office,” it added without elaborating.
The Azerbaijani side did not immediately confirm this. Mammadyarov said only that the talks were “positive.”
“The common approach is that most intensive, substantive and logical negotiations must continue if we are to reach progress towards the conflict’s resolution and peace and stability in the region,” the Azerbaijani minister told the Trend news agency.
Mammadyarov also said that the three mediators presented the two sides with “a number of creative ideas” on a Karabakh settlement. He did not elaborate.
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijani agreed to the expansion of a small OSCE team periodically monitoring ceasefire in the Karabakh conflict zone when they met in Vienna in May 2016. The team led by Andzrej Kasprzyk consists of a small number of officials who travel to Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border once or twice a month to briefly monitor the parties’ compliance with truce agreements reached in 1994 and 1995.
Azerbaijan officially stated in March 2017 that it will not allow the OSCE to deploy monitors on the Karabakh frontline “in the absence of withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories.” Baku has been just as reluctant to allow international investigations of truce violations there, which were also agreed upon in May 2016.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev pledged to intensify the protracted search for a Karabakh peace and bolster the ceasefire at their most recent talks held in Geneva in October 2017.
Both Mammadyarov and the Armenian Foreign Ministry said after the Krakow talks that the Minsk Group co-chairs will again tour the conflict zone early next month. But it remained unclear whether the two presidents could meet again before Sarkisian serves out his final presidential term in early April.