Joint efforts by Russia and other world powers to help resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will eventually end in success, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said over the weekend.
In an interview with an Armenian reporter, Lavrov also praised Armenia for remaining firmly allied to Russia while forging closer links with the European Union.
Commenting on prospects for a Karabakh settlement, he said: “The most important thing [for the conflicting parties] is to step back from distrust, which still manifests itself sometimes during negotiations, and to concentrate on realistic, pragmatic ideas which are in abundant supply.”
“The parties seem to conceptually agree to do that, but when things start developing into concrete wordings … complications arise. But I think that we will continue to consistently overcome them and achieve a result,” Lavrov said in the televised interview publicized by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents pledged to try to break the deadlock in the Karabakh peace process when they last met in Geneva in October. Their foreign ministers held follow-up negotiations in December and January. The U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group said in February that the two sides intend to “continue intensive negotiations, taking into account the current electoral period.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will likely win another term in office in a snap election scheduled for Wednesday. Aliyev’s Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, served out his final presidential term on Monday. Sarkisian is widely expected to become Armenia’s prime minister and thus extend his rule later this month.
Aliyev and Sarkisian most recently came close to reaching a framework peace accord at a 2011 meeting held in Kazan, Russia. Armenian officials accused Aliyev s at the time of scuttling the deal with last-minute additional concessions demanded from the Armenian side.
“During the [Kazan] summit there emerged additional questions and comments,” said Lavrov. “Such things happen. We don’t regard that as a tragedy. Efforts will continue. I am sure that a lot of what is contained in the so-called Kazan document is still in demand.”
“So I think nothing from what was worked out at that time has been lost, even though some new ideas, which the co-chairs are now furthering in their contacts with the parties, have emerged since then,” he added without elaborating.
The Kazan document is thought to be one of the versions of the Basic Principles of a Karabakh peace which were first put forward by the U.S., Russian and French mediators in 2007. The framework accord calls for a phased settlement that would start with Armenian withdrawal from virtually all Azerbaijani districts around Karabakh. That would be followed by a referendum on Karabakh’s internationally recognized status.
Lavrov was also satisfied the current state of Russian-Armenian relations, saying that they have grown even closer in the political, economic and military areas in the past decade. He praised Armenia for joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) at the expense of an Association Agreement with the EU which was due to be finalized in 2013. Yerevan signed a less far-reaching Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the EU last November.
“It’s wrong to leave countries in the post-Soviet space with the choice of either with the West or with Russia,” Lavrov said in a jibe at the EU. “That is an absolutely ideological and politicized approach. And I think the fact that Armenia insisted on the kind of relationship with the EU which involves … recognition of Armenia’s rights and obligations in other integration processes is a step in the right direction.”