Karabakh Issue: Mediators hail Armenian, Azeri presidents’ “readiness” to meet

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are ready to meet later this year, international mediators brokering a solution to the Karabakh conflict said on Thursday at the end of their latest tour of the region.

The American, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a joint statement in Baku after holding talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Ambassadors James Warlick (USA), Igor Popov (Russia) and Pierre Andrieu (France) met with Armenian President Serzh Sarsyan in Yerevan on July 20.

“We welcomed the readiness of the presidents to meet each other later this year, and they instructed their Foreign Ministers to continue their work with the Co-Chairs on an agenda for the presidential summit,” the Co-Chairs said, according to the statement published on the OSCE’s official website.

The three diplomats co-heading the group said they discussed with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders “current proposals to advance negotiations towards a lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

“We also welcomed the period of relative stability along the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border that coincided with major international events in both countries over the last several months. However, we are concerned about the recent rise in tensions, and we urged the Presidents to avoid a deadly escalation of violence and take all measures to adhere strictly to the ceasefire,” the statement said.

“The presidents repeated their commitment to exchange data on missing persons under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

President Sargsyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Aliyev last met in Paris in October. Tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, however, flared up again soon after that meeting.

The situation around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border has remained relatively calm since April, with only few deadly incidents reported. Observers in Armenia linked this relative calm to the first-ever European Games that Baku hosted last month.

Karabakh’s Defense Ministry reported rising tensions and intensified ceasefire violations by Azerbaijan at the Line of Contact on July 22-23, but neither side reported any casualties.