Karabakh Process: Mediators want Armenia, Azerbaijan to reinforce ceasefire in conflict zone

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A possible meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Nagorno Karabakh with the participation of the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States and France has already been confirmed by Moscow. The other OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries have at least not denied such an opportunity.

On May 12, the day that marked the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh, the OSCE Minsk Group issued a statement in which it announced a possible meeting of President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Shortly after that statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the meeting could take place as early as May 16 in Vienna, and that the heads of the foreign policy departments of Russia, the United States and France could also take part in it.

Although there is still no full confirmation of the meeting, its agenda is already known. In their statement the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen said that the discussions will focus on reinforcing the ceasefire regime and confidence-building measures to create “favorable conditions for resuming negotiations on a comprehensive settlement on the basis of elements and principles under discussion.”

The mediators stressed that “there can be no success in negotiations if violence continues, and there can be no peace without a negotiation process.”  “We reiterate that there is no military solution to the conflict,” they said, as quoted by the OSCE official website.

Press Secretary of Karabakh’s president David Babayan, commenting on the upcoming meeting, stated that mechanisms for investigation of incidents, including special equipment, must become available at the frontlines before the resumption of negotiations.

The possibility to install special equipment registering violations at the line of contact in Karabakh was addressed still a year ago by the American co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassador James Warlick. The idea was approved by Armenia, but rejected by Azerbaijan. After the April aggression by Azerbaijan, Russia also expressed its support for the initiative and said that it is necessary to turn to Germany as the OSCE chairing country to install such equipment. This was, in particular, stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Yerevan on April 22.

First Deputy Defense Minister of Armenia David Tonoyan, who on Thursday received Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Thomas Lenk, drew the German official’s attention to the fact that hours after the May 11 monitoring by the OSCE Mission at the northeastern section of the line of contact in Karabakh, Azerbaijan committed a ceasefire violation at the same section as a result of which an Armenian serviceman was killed.

“This incident highlights the fact that OSCE monitoring missions conducted in their present format are not effective, and Azerbaijan continues to grossly violate the ceasefire regime,” the deputy minister said. It was emphasized that the introduction of international mechanisms for investigating violation at the line of contact is one of the most effective safeguards to prevent further incidents.

It is not clear whether the international mediators will be able to persuade Azerbaijan to allow the installation of special equipment in the conflict zone as it would mean the end of what many observers consider to be Baku’s policy of “military blackmail”. It is also difficult to say at this point what concessions will be required from Armenia in the course of political dialogue if it can be renewed.