YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—In an exclusive interview with Armenpress, OSCE Minsk Group U.S. Co-Chair James Warlick has said that the Minsk Group is currently organizing a meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan before the end of the year. Warlick also commented on recent incidents on the border, clarifying what he believes create obstacles for the negotiation process.
Mr. Ambassador, first of all let me thank you for giving this interview. After your last visit to the region, you announced that the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev, have expressed their desire to meet by the end of the year. Could you please tell us when and where the presidents will meet? What does the OSCE expect from that meeting? Can we expect the meeting bring sides closer to signing a peace agreement?
During the co-chairs’ last trip to the region, the presidents committed to attending a summit before the end of the year and the co-chairs are preparing accordingly with the foreign ministers. We expect the presidents to discuss key elements of a settlement. We would also encourage them to use the opportunity to find ways to reduce tensions and end violence, including casualties among innocent civilians.
Mr. Ambassador, a lot of experts and politicians have called the situation, “negotiations just for negotiations.” Do you agree with that opinion?
There is no alternative to diplomacy. Without the active mediation of the co-chairs and the participation of the sides in negotiations, the risk of military conflict would increase. Last October, the presidents committed to intensifying their dialogue and we hope the upcoming summit will revitalize their channel of communication.
Could you please describe the problems which create obstacles for productive results?
The biggest obstacle to peace is the lack of political will in Armenia and Azerbaijan to reach a just and lasting settlement at the negotiation table. We have said numerous times that a negotiated settlement would bring peace and prosperity to a region that has suffered from this conflict for far too long. The co-chairs will continue our efforts to mediate a resolution as long as the sides consider our role necessary, but ultimately it is up to the Presidents to reach a settlement.
Mr. Warlick, don’t you think that the last incident, when the Azerbaijani army fired during the OSCE monitoring, is an obstacle for the negotiations?
The incident that occurred when the co-chairs and OSCE monitors were crossing the line of contact was unacceptable. It is impossible to determine which side instigated the attack, but it represented a deliberate attempt to undermine the negotiation process. OSCE monitors serve a valuable function in contributing to stability and security along the Line of Contact and international border. Their safety should never be jeopardized.