Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to prevent further ceasefire violations, saying that is essential for kick-starting the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
Lavrov expressed Russia’s readiness to help create the “necessary atmosphere” for resuming Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations during a meeting with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov. He also discussed the Karabakh conflict in a phone call with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian.
“I understand that our common intent is to continue the negotiation process,” Lavrov told a joint news conference with Bayramov held after the talks. “In this regard, it is important to ensure the necessary atmosphere for setting up a steady negotiating process.”
“We will do our best to foster the creation of such conditions both in the national capacity and as one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group,” he said.
Lavrov said that he specifically discussed with Bayramov the Russian, U.S. and French mediators’ plans to visit the conflict zone and organize talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. He stressed that the plans are contingent on preventing the kind of deadly ceasefire violations that broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on July 12.
“We very much hope that what happened in July will not be repeated,” added the chief Russian diplomat.
The weeklong border clashes involving artillery and attack drones left at least 17 soldiers from both sides dead. Lavrov said last week that “active Russian mediation” helped to stop them.
Speaking at the news conference in Moscow, Bayramov, who was appointed as Azerbaijan’s foreign minister on July 16, blamed Armenia for the flare-up of violence and accused it of obstructing a Karabakh settlement. He also said that the talks planned by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group must be “substantive.”
It was not immediately clear whether Lavrov’s phone conversation with Mnatsakanian took place just before or after his meeting with Bayramov. The Armenian Foreign Ministry released no details of the conversation.
Immediately after the border fighting Yerevan called on Baku to agree to confidence-building measures that would bolster the ceasefire regime. It referred to concrete agreements to that effect that had been reached by Azerbaijani President Aliyev and his former Armenian counterpart President Serzh Sarkisian in 2016.
The agreements called for the deployment of more OSCE field observers in the conflict zone and international investigations of armed incidents occurring there. Baku subsequently refused to implement them, saying that they would cement the status quo.