STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)—The Russian Co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group hinted on Wednesday that Karabakh will eventually join the negotiations process, but did not indicate at exactly what point that would happen.
After day-long talks in Baku, Russia’s Igor Popov and the other co-chairmen, France’s Jaque Faure and the US’s Robert Bradke, crossed the border into Karabakh, where they met with Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian on Wednesday.
“The destructive policy of Azerbaijan and the incongruous negotiation format are the pivotal obstacles hindering the conflict resolution,” Sahakian told the visiting co-chairmen, according the Karabakh presidential press service.
Sahakian also urged the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen to work to ensure that Azerbaijan has a constructive approach and to restore the full-fledged negotiation format.
Popov said the mediating troika discussed in Baku and Stepanakert recent ceasefire violations in the conflict zone that have fuelled more concerns about a renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani war. He also indicated that the conflicting parties continue to disagree on a mechanism for joint investigations of such skirmishes which is proposed by the mediators, reported RFE/RL.
“I can presume that when substantive work on the peace accord starts then the format of negotiators may be expanded,” Popov told reporters after the meeting with Sahakian, according to RFE/RL.
It was not clear if Popov and his American and French colleagues presented new proposals on helping the parties overcome their differences on the Basic Principles of the Karabakh conflict’s resolution advanced by the three mediating powers.
In a joint statement issued on June 19, the U.S., Russian and French presidents said the parties should iron out those disagreements without “further delay.” They also urged both sides to “refrain from maximalist positions in the negotiations, respect the 1994 ceasefire agreement, and abstain from hostile rhetoric that increases tension.”
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan said on Wednesday that its armed forces have begun large-scale exercises near unspecified sections of the frontline.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Safar Abiyev told Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti the three-day drills would feature ground forces and “the use of modern machinery and weapons.”
Baku said the military drills would end Friday.