MOSCOW (RFE/RL)—Russia is strongly opposed to any attempts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by military means, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian.
Lavrov also described Armenia as his country’s “reliable partner and ally.” “We value our centuries-old relations which have been cemented by the historical, cultural and spiritual proximity between the peoples of the two states,” he told a joint news conference in Moscow. “These relations have been developing steadily and have taken on a new quality in the context of Armenia’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union.”
The meeting with Nalbandian “reaffirmed the strategic and allied character of Russian-Armenian relations, added Lavrov.
The unresolved Karabakh conflict was high on the agenda of the talks. Lavrov said that Russia will continue to “actively” mediate Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, which it co-heads together with the United States and France.
“We don’t even assume that the Nagorno-Karabakh will enter a ‘hot’ phase,” stressed the chief Russian diplomat. “I am convinced that despite [bellicose] rhetoric none of the interested parties wants that.”
Lavrov made the comment in response to a reporter’s question about whether Moscow is ready to fulfill its “military obligations” to Yerevan in the face of Baku’s regular threats to regain control over not only Karabakh but what President Ilham Aliyev calls “historic Azerbaijani lands” in Armenia proper. He noted that Russia and Armenia are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a defense pact of six ex-Soviet states.
Nalbadian’s visit to Moscow comes amid what appears to be growing Armenian discontent with recent years’ large-scale sales of Russian offensive weapons to Azerbaijan. President Serzh Sarkisian publicly warned last month that they could undermine Russian-Armenian ties.
Russian State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin defended the Russian-Azerbaijani arms deals, worth an estimated $4 billion since 2010, when he visited Yerevan later in March. Speaking at a meeting with Armenian lawmakers, Naryshkin emphasized their commercial significance to Moscow.
Critics in Armenia dismiss such explanations. They say that the Russians only increase the likelihood of another war in Karabakh by assisting in Azerbaijan’s massive military buildup.
Lavrov pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal involvement last year in international efforts to prevent a further escalation in tensions in the conflict zone. Putin hosted in August emergency talks between his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts following an upsurge in deadly truce violations there.
Speaking at the news conference with Lavrov, Nalbandian again blamed Azerbaijan for the lack of progress in the Karabakh peace process. He claimed that Baku rejects key elements of the international mediators’ Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement and their concrete proposals to bolster the ceasefire regime.
Earlier this week, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry denounced similar claims made by Nalbandian in an interview with a Russian magazine. A ministry spokesman also said that the Armenian side itself is reluctant to start negotiation on a comprehensive Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord.
Yerevan argues such negotiations would be meaningless in the absence of an agreement on the Basic Principles outlining the key terms of Karabakh peace.