VIENNA—President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev at talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries’ foreign ministers. The sides agreed on several provisions that seek to deflate the tension, which erupted in early April when Azerbaijan staged a savage attack on all borders of Karabakh and agreed to a meeting in June.
This announcement was made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who also told reporters that Monday’s talks were initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and included the participation of France’s State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir.
The participants reached an agreement to take steps toward implementing the provisions of the 1994 cease fire agreement, establishing mechanisms to investigate border incidents, expanding the authority of the team of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office to conduct more frequent monitoring of the border, known as the “line of conflict,” and the possible resumption of the peace talks.
Kerry, Lavrov and Desir issued a statement following the talks in Vienne, in which they reiterated that there can be no military solution to the conflict. The Co-Chairs insisted on the importance of respecting the 1994 and 1995 ceasefire agreements.”
“The Presidents reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire and the peaceful settlement of the conflict. To reduce the risk of further violence, they agreed to finalize in the shortest possible time an OSCE investigative mechanism. The Presidents also agreed to the expansion of the existing Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office. Finally, they agreed to continue the exchange of data on missing persons under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to which the Presidents committed during the Paris summit of October 2014,” added the statement,
“The Presidents agreed on a next round of talks, to be held in June at a place to be mutually agreed, with an aim to resuming negotiations on a comprehensive settlement,” concluded the statement.
Also taking part in the Vienna talks were Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov, OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs Igor Popov (Russia), James Warlick (US) and Pierre Andieu (France), as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Officen Andrzej Kasprzyk.
Earlier in the day, Sarkisian and Kerry met and reiterated that there can be no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia’s presidential office reported. Kerry also held separate talks with Aliyev.
Sarkisian also stressed that in order for talks to resume, a process to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the 1994 cease fire agreement must be guaranteed so that mechanisms to investigate border incidents can be implemented.
The president also expressed hope that the mediating countries would be consistent in their targeted positions and take clear steps to creating favorable conditions for talks to resume between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday that the US’s role in the process was not about “arbitration or mediation,” but is simply driven by a desire to see both sides engage in dialogue, abide by the ceasefire and work toward a comprehensive resolution, adding that Kerry is interested in examining ways with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to reduce the violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Secretary Kerry definitely wants to discuss… how we can better lower the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakhand deescalate the violence that has sadly continued,” Kirby stated. “He wants to explore ways in which we can ratchet down the tension,” said Kirby.
Ahead of the meeting the Armenian National Committee of America expressed its support for the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Everything we have seen in the forty-five days since Azerbaijan launched its April 2nd offensive confirms that Ilham Aliyev is hell-bent on conquest, that he’ll only leverage concessions by Nagorno Karabakh to intensify his attacks, and that the OSCE, the international community, and – sadly – our own U.S. government is unable or unwilling to confront ongoing Azerbaijani ceasefire violations that continue to claim lives on all sides. Given Azerbaijan’s track record of escalating violence, we remain profoundly opposed to one-sided deals that require Nagorno Karabakh to make up-front, strategic, and irrevocable security concessions in return for deferred, vague, and reversible Azerbaijani promises regarding Artsakh’s future status,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“We remain supportive of the OSCE platform and hopeful for progress in today’s talks and the timely implementation of concrete confidence building measures – including the placement of a ceasefire monitoring systems at the line of contact and an agreement on the non-deployment of snipers, heavy arms and new weaponry,” added Hamparian.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) shortly before the summit, Warlick said Kerry, Lavrov and Desir will seek “assurances” from Aliyev and Sarkisian that their nations will continue to abide by a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war in 1994. That, he said, will be the main purpose of the meeting.
The U.S., Russian and French ministers will also discuss with Aliyev and Sarkisian specific “stabilization measures” that would ease tensions and prevent another flare-up of violence, added the U.S. diplomat.
In a statement last week, Warlick and his fellow Minsk Group co-chairs representing Russia and France said the Vienna talks are meant to “reinforce the ceasefire regime, and to seek agreement on confidence-building measures that would create favorable conditions for resuming negotiations on a comprehensive settlement.”
“There can be no success in negotiations if violence continues, and there can be no peace without a negotiation process,” they stressed.
Warlick likewise said on Monday that respecting the ceasefire is critical for reviving the stalled Karabakh peace process. “We are hoping for a very positive discussion,” he said.