SOCHI (RFE/RL)—The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan pledged to intensify their efforts to agree on the basic principles of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict after fresh talks hosted by their Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Monday.
In a joint statement with Medvedev issued in the Russian city of Sochi, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev said “they expressed readiness to accelerate the achievement of an agreement on the Basic Principles of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.” In that regard, they stressed the importance of switching to discussions on a comprehensive peace accord based on those principles.
The statement did not say, however, that Aliyev and Sarkisian narrowed their differences on the framework peace deal drafted by Russia, the United States and France under the aegis the OSCE Minsk Group.
According to the Interfax news agency, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists after the trilateral meeting that there is still “a whole series of issues that remain to be agreed” before the conflicting parties can sign a document on the basic principles. Lavrov said the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders agreed that they need to “move away from maximalist positions” in order to ensure further progress in the peace process.
Aliyev and Sarkisian were reportedly close to achieving a breakthrough at their previous face-to-face talks with Medvedev that took place in another Russian city, Kazan, last June. Prospects for a near-term solution to the Karabakh conflict have dimmed since then.
The two presidents also discussed but apparently failed to reach a final agreement joint investigations of deadly ceasefire violations in the conflict zone which have been proposed by the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the Minsk Group. Their joint statement said that the mediators were instructed to “continue this work” on concrete procedures for such investigations.
The Sochi summit highlighted Russia’s central role in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiating process that has been publicly praised by the United States and the European Union. Medvedev has organized a dozen Aliyev-Sarkisian meetings during his four-year presidency.
In a separate meeting with Aliyev held earlier on Monday, Medvedev insisted that these talks have been “useful” despite the lack of concrete agreements reached to date. “I hope that this kind of contacts will continue in the future,” he said in televised remarks.
The trilateral statement similarly spoke of “progress” in the Russian-mediated negotiations. It also said that Aliyev and Sarkisian called for continued mutual visits by Armenian and Azerbaijani intellectuals and other prominent public figures.
According to Lavrov, they asked Moscow to continue to arrange such “humanitarian ties.” “Dmitry Medvedev certainly agreed,” he said.