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Russia Encouraged By Armenian-Azeri Talks


RUSSIA -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivers a speech during a meeting with Arab League's officials in Moscow, Russia April 16, 2019.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sounded optimistic on Wednesday about the implementation of confidence-building agreements reached by his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts at their latest talks mediated by him.

Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov met with Lavrov in Moscow on Monday more than two weeks after an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held in Vienna. They were also joined by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.

A joint statement issued by the participants said the warring sides reaffirmed their earlier pledges to strengthen the ceasefire regime and take other confidence-building measures in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.

They specifically agreed to “allow families to have access to their relatives held in custody in the respective detention centers of the parties.” “The Ministers expressed their willingness to start concrete work on establishing contacts between people, including through mutual visits of media representatives,” added the statement.

“I believe that this is a very useful agreement,” Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow. “I have read comments that similar things, especially in the humanitarian sphere, had been agreed upon earlier but not always implemented. This is true.”

“But as a result of the talks held in Moscow … I have reason to think that both Baku and Yerevan are interested in ensuring that these agreements do not remain on paper this time around. We will be assisting them in that,” he said.

Mammadyarov on Wednesday described the Moscow meeting as “productive.” He said he and Mnatsakanian also discussed a peace plan which was proposed by Russia following the April 2016 fighting in Karabakh.

Lavrov confirmed this, saying that the plan is in tune with the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement which have repeatedly been laid out by the U.S., Russian and French mediators in recent years. “The details are certainly confidential,” he said.

The Minsk Group co-chairs reaffirmed their compromise peace formula, also known as the Madrid Principles, in a March 9 statement. They said “any fair and lasting settlement” must involve “return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control; an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance; a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh; future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will.”

Speaking at a March 19 news conference in Yerevan, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that the Madrid Principles are open to different interpretations and need to be clarified. Pashinian said afterwards that he raised the matter with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the mediators at the Vienna summit held on March 29.

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