The recent escalation of ceasefire violations along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border, commonly known as the line of contact, was the focus of Thursday’s meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov, who met in Washington under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmen.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, the two top diplomats reiterated the absolute need for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They agreed the escalation of ceasefire violations in recent weeks had impacted the negotiations process.
The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, Igor Popov of Russia, Stéphane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States, who were joined at the meeting by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk, also emphasized the need for the sides to temper the cross border flare ups.
Mnatsakanyan told reporters that recent incidents on the border “have had their impact on the negotiation process. We should be cautious and remain committed to the agreements we have reached in the previous months. This was the most important part of our negotiations today,” Mnatsakanyan told reporters after the talks, according to Voice of America’s Armenian Service.
Mammadyarov claimed to reporters that while the provisions of the talks had not changed, the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides had disagreements on several details.
“The idea is the same. We are moving forward based on the same peace program which has been on the table already for the past 15 years,” said Mammadyarov, who added that ceasefire violations should not hinder the negotiation process.
Of course, he did not mention that the ceasefire violations, including the ones recorded during the past several weeks, have all been initiated by the Azerbaijani forces.
Mammadyarov called the Thursday talks “intense.”
“The Co-Chairs provided additional substantive proposals which we need to study. We should see how we are going to move on in these negotiations,” said Mammadyarov without elaborating on the said approaches.
Mnatsakanyan added that the political will to continue the negotiations exists from Armenia’s standpoint. However, he said the priority was to create an atmosphere of respect in the talks. Any agreement, he said, should be beneficial for the people of Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan.
“The ceasefire violations are key challenges. It is necessary to reduce the threat of increase of tension thanks to which it will be possible to ensure a environment of respect moving forward,” Mnatsakanyan told reporters.
In an announcement issued after the meeting, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen said that they urged the sides to “prevent further ceasefire violations” and take “full advantage of the existing direct communication links in order to react swiftly to reduce the risk of escalation.”
“During their discussions, the participants exchanged views on recent developments on the ground and core issues of the settlement process. The Foreign Ministers clarified their positions and expectations with respect to implementation of the humanitarian and security measures proposed by the mediators during their last trip to the region,” said the Minsk Group co-chairmen’s announcement.
“Noting with regret recent casualties, the Co-Chairs urged the sides to take immediate measures to restore an atmosphere conducive to peace and favorable to substantive talks. They called on the sides to reaffirm their commitment to observe the ceasefire strictly and to refrain from any provocative action, including the use of snipers and engineering works along the line of contact and the international border,” added the Co-chairmen’s announcement.