Diplomacy v Cannons: Mediators working to bring Karabakh conflict parties back to negotiating table

The OSCE Minsk Group’s Russian co-chair Igor Popov talking to media in the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert, on April 7. (Photo: Photolure)

Despite occasional gunfire and violations at the line of contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, the military and politicians agree that the ceasefire arrangement reached in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone on April 5, after several days of deadly fighting, is largely holding. Active processes are now taking place in the diplomatic arena.

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are visiting Nagorno-Karabakh. They came to Stepanakert from Baku, and from there will proceed to Yerevan to negotiate around certain conditions. The international mediators do not disclose the essence of their talks yet and do not even say whether they have been negotiating about the measures to consolidate the truce or the final settlement of the conflict.

The Armenian side insists on a final settlement, but offers to resume talks from the positions that existed before April 1, 2016. Azerbaijan officially still insists on the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Karabakh – as a condition for negotiations.

Visiting Azerbaijan earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that a settlement was close and that there was a document on the negotiating table.

Commenting on this statement, a spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry Tigran Balayan said that the matter concerned the so-called Kazan document. This document proposed in 2011 by the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was eventually rejected by Azerbaijan.

The document, around which a meeting between President Serzh Sargsyan and President Ilham Aliyev was hosted by Medvedev in Kazan, according to experts, is not very different from the OSCE’s Madrid principles that envisage an exchange of territories for a status. The Kazan document suggests, however, the deployment of Russian peacekeepers as a guarantor force in the conflict zone.

According to RIA Novosti, Germany has also proposed a document on the settlement that consists of seven points and implies measures to observe the ceasefire.

However, visiting Germany on April 6, Sargsyan did not make statements on this account. During his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel he called on the OSCE to increase the mandate of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office and install equipment that would strengthen the truce at the borders.

It is still unclear on the basis of what plan negotiations will be conducted. But it is clear that the efforts of the mediators now are aimed rather at returning the sides from the battlefields to the negotiating table than at achieving an ultimate settlement.