YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan could meet soon for the first time in more than a year to try to revive the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said during a visit to Moscow on Thursday.
The unresolved Karabakh conflict was on the agenda of Nalbandian’s talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Nalbandian announced after the talks that he and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will meet in the Polish city of Krakow next month in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“Also, a meeting at the highest level is not ruled out,” Nalbandian told a joint news conference with Lavrov. He did not specify possible dates for such a meeting.
Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman accompanying Nalbandian during the trip, likewise wrote on Twitter that “a meeting of the presidents is possible.” But he too did not elaborate.
Official Baku seemed to confirm the upcoming meeting of Nalbandian and Mammadyarov but did not immediately comment on the possibility of a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani summit on Karabakh. Citing an unnamed diplomatic source, the Azerbaijani Trend news agency said that the two ministers will meet in Krakow on the sidelines of a ministerial conference of ex-Soviet states covered by the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program. It is scheduled for May 17-18.
Presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev most recently met in the Russian city of Sochi in January 2012. The talks were hosted by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In a joint written statement issued there, Aliyev and Sarkisian pledged to intensify their efforts to agree on the Basic Principles of a Karabakh settlement put forward by the international mediators.
However, tensions in the conflict zone rose in the following months, with both sides reporting in June 2012 one of the deadliest ceasefire violations in years on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Fears of a renewed full-scale war were also stoked by Azerbaijani threats to forcibly halt commercial civilian flights to Karabakh planned by the Armenian side.
Prospects for Karabakh peace were dealt a further blow in August when Azerbaijan secured the release from a Hungarian prison of an Azerbaijani army officer who axe-murdered an Armenian colleague in Budapest in 2004. Yerevan reacted furiously to the officer’s glorification by Baku.
The American, French and Russian diplomats co-heading the Minsk Group have since organized several meetings of Mammadyarov and Nalbandian and made several trips to the conflict zone. But they have reported no progress towards an Armenian-Azerbaijani agreement on the unpublicized Basic Principles.
Lavrov said on Friday that Russia stands by those principles and is planning “additional measures that will help to understand how far we have gone in terms of resuming negotiations.” “There is no letup in our activities and we will keep working,” the Russian minister said.