STEPANAKERT—The U.S., Russian, and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group travelled to Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan from May 16 to 19 with the main objective of reviewing the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, Kelbajar, and Lachin.
In travelling through these areas, they saw signs of improvements in infrastructure, but could not observe any indications that the size of the population had changed in recent years.
The mediators also visited the Sarsang reservoir, and discussed its status and operations with managers of the facility. They expressed their hope that the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides will reach an agreement to jointly manage these water resources for the benefit of the region.
The authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have in the past repeatedly expressed their willingness to begin discussions with their counterparts in Baku over the governance of water resources at the Sarsang reservoir.
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Aghabegyan said in 2013 that the focus of discussions would be the development of water reservoirs from the Sarsang Dam and the Tartar River.
That statement followed days of demonstrations by residents near the Tartar River on the Azerbaijan side, demanding local Azeri authorities to provide adequate water for agriculture in the area.
Aghabegyan said that the Sarsang Dam, located in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has great potential and if the waterways constructed during the Soviet era were to be used in the proper manner both Karabakh and Azerbaijan could benefit from the water resources.
Aghabegyan argued that if Azerbaijan rejects the dialogue offer, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will make large-scale investments to create pumping stations to re-direct border-area water resources to only serve Artsakh.
“We use the water from Sarsang to produce electricity and the calendar is calibrated to meet only our needs. In the event of cooperation, we can utilize those resources to serve both [Karabakh and Azerbaijan],” explained Aghabegyan.
The deputy prime minister said that Karabakh has always been willing to cooperate with Azerbaijan, which while it is an enemy today, is never the less a neighbor. He insisted that through this type of cooperation the population on both sides can be prepared for an eventual peace, which, in his words, will adhere to the cease-fire agreement leading to a mutual understanding between the two countries.
On May 19, the co-chairs inspected the line of contact near Tartar. They expressed regret for the continued ceasefire violations and consequent casualties. The absence of a mechanism for investigating these ceasefire violations allows the sides to put the blame on each other, they said.
In the course of the visit, the co-chairs met with senior officials in Yerevan and Baku as well as authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh. In their meetings, they discussed elements of the peace process, and stressed that the basis of a lasting settlement remains those elements outlined in statements by the presidents of the co-chair countries from 2009 to 2013.