YEREVAN, STEPANAKERT—President Serzh Sarkisian called Monday’s talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev on the Karabakh conflict “satisfactory,” as another Artsakh soldier was killed as a result of Azerbaijani attacks hours after the US-initiated summit in Vienna concluded.
Speaking to reporters on his flight back to Yerevan Monday night, Sarkisian said that Armenia’s approach to the talks was to gauge whether the peace negotiations were deadlocked or could resume with “less losses.”
On the battlefront, however, Azerbaijani forces continued violating the cease-fire agreement, with intensive shelling reported in the southeastern area of Hadrut and the eastern Martuni region, with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Defense Army reporting one casualty.
Artsakh Army private Khachatur Vardan Harutyunyan, born in 1996, was killed as Azerbaijani soldiers shelled posts in southern Artsakh, hours after Sarkisian and Aliyev were engaged in talks initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry in the Austrian capital with participation of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and France’s State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir as high level representatives of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries.
Azerbaijani attacks over the weekend severely wounded Artsakh Army Private Hovhannes Edward Poghosyan, while the Armenian Defense Ministry on Friday reported that Armenia’s Armed forces downed an Azerbaijani drone over the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia.
The talks concluded Monday night with the sides agreeing to honor the 1994 cease-fire agreement and to resume talks, with specific mechanism for more frequent monitoring on the Karabakh-Azerbaijan border, known as the “Line of Contact.”
“My colleagues and I are generally satisfied with the results of the talks,” Sarkisian told reporters aboard the presidential plane en-route to Yerevan.
Without elaborating on details of the discussions, Sarkisian said that “the president of Azerbaijan assured that his country and he personally does not aim to solve any issue through hostilities.”
While Sarkisian called Aliyev’s overtures for a peaceful resolution of the conflict “good,” he was quick to express Armenia’s trepidations since prior agreements reached during past talks “have not been honored” by Azerbaijan.
“We cannot be guided by presumptions or predictions, because war is not the best option. We are ready for any outcome, but we prefer a peaceful solution,” said Sarkisian who hinted that while he did not anticipate an end to border skirmishes immediately he was hopeful that they would subside.
“We made a constructive proposal to hold the meeting after the mechanism of monitoring of ceasefire violations is implemented,” Sarkisian said.
“We want to resolve issues through negotiations and in a peaceful way, but if Azerbaijan breaks its promises and violates the provisions of the ceasefire agreement, we’ll have no option but to give an equivalent response,” added Sarkisian.
On Tuesday, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian echoed Sarkisian’s assessment, as well as misgivings pointing out that during the past several years the sides have come very close to a resolution, “but every time Azerbaijan has taken a step backward.”
“The implementation of the agreements reached between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Vienna will create the necessary conditions for the resolution of the conflict and the search for compromise solutions,” the Foreign Minister said.
Nalbandian also said that the participation of foreign ministers of the Minsk Group co-chairing counties for the first time during an Armenian and Azerbaijani presidential summit was “a testament to the extreme importance the mediating countries attach to the implementation of the agreements.”