“We are satisfied with the fact that the ceasefire on the ground has been observed for almost a month and there is a return of refugees,” Lavrov said after talks with his visiting Amenian counterpart, Ara Ayvazian.
“There is progress in the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies of the dead and the search for missing persons,” he told reporters. “But as we pointed out earlier today, we are interested in seeing these acute humanitarian issues solved as soon as possible. And we mapped out today a number of steps in that direction.”
In his opening remarks at the three-hour negotiations, Lavrov said that through Russian peacekeepers deployed in the Karabakh conflict zone Moscow will seek to facilitate a “quick completion” of the exchange of POWs envisaged by the truce agreement.
Ayvazian also stressed the importance of the prisoner exchange, which has not yet begun. “We hope that there will be no obstacles from the Azerbaijani side,” he said at the joint news briefing with Lavrov. “Also, there have been many cases of inhumane treatment of Armenian prisoners held by the Azerbaijanis.”
Ayvazian, who was appointed as foreign minister less than a month ago, also reiterated Armenia’s strong condemnations of Turkey’s role in the Karabakh war that broke out on September 27.
“Turkey must withdrawl its military personnel and armed terrorist groups linked to them from the Karabakh conflict zone and the South Caucasus in general,” he said.
Ankara has denied sending members of Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups to fight in Karabakh on Azerbaijan’s side. Azerbaijan also denies the presence of such mercenaries in the Azerbaijani army ranks.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and Lavrov discussed the implementation of the truce agreement in a weekend phone call. Baku and Moscow reported few details of the conversation.
The agreement brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin says nothing about Karabakh’s status. It is expected to be a key focus of Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations planned by Russia, France and the United States.
Lavrov said Russian, French and U.S. diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group are planning to visit the conflict zone soon in an effort to kick-start the peace process. But he gave no possible dates for the trip.