The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to avoid further ceasefire violations and resume peace talks during a trilateral phone call with the foreign ministers of the two South Caucasus states.
Borrell phoned Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his newly appointed Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov late on Wednesday to again discuss the July 12 outbreak of deadly clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, which left at least 17 soldiers dead. It was Mnatsakanian’s first conversation with Bayramov, who replaced Azerbaijan’s longtime Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov last week.
“I urged both sides to reaffirm their commitment to a ceasefire and undertake immediate measures to prevent further escalation,” Borrell tweeted after the phone call.
In a separate statement, the EU cited Borrell as saying that the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should “refrain from action and rhetoric that provoke tension, in particular from any further threats to critical infrastructure in the region.”
“He also stressed the need for meaningful re-engagement in substantive negotiations on the key aspects of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement under the auspices of the [OSCE Minsk Group] Co-Chairs; both ministers concurred on this,” read the statement.
Baku and Yerevan blame each other for the border clashes which appear to have subsided over the past week. Mnatsakanian and Bayramov were reported to stand by their governments’ diametrically opposite versions of the events.
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mnatsakanian “emphasized the importance of implementation of the previous agreements on reducing tensions, restoring and strengthening the ceasefire.” The confidence-building agreements reached in 2016-2017 called for the deployment of more OSCE monitors in the conflict zone and international investigations of truce violations happening there.
For his part, Bayramov said that while Azerbaijan remains committed to a peaceful Karabakh settlement it wants further negotiations with Armenia to produce “concrete results.”
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has threatened in recent weeks to withdraw from the negotiating process, saying that it has been “meaningless” so far. He has said the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the Minsk Group should do more to make the talks “substantive” in addition to trying to prevent violence.
Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian insisted on Thursday that Azerbaijan itself hampers progress towards the conflict’s resolutions with its “maximalist” position that preludes any compromise peace accord. He said Baku must not “talk to us from the position of force.”
“Azerbaijan should publicly renounce the use of force and take credible steps to end its anti-Armenian rhetoric,” Pashinian added during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.