MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday stressed the need for a “solely political” resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and pledged to help Armenia and Azerbaijan hammer out a peace accord.
“We will do everything to settle [the conflict,] to find solutions acceptable to both sides,” Putin said during an annual question-and-answer session aired live by Russian television.
“There should certainly be long-term solutions on Karabakh,” he said. “They can be achieved by solely — I want to emphasize this, it’s a seemingly clichéd phrase but I can’t think of any other — political means. A compromise needs to to be found.
“It seemed to me several years ago that we have come close to that compromise by both sides. But unfortunately it turned out not be the case.”
“We will work, both within the framework of international structures and on a bilateral basis, on settling the Karabakh problem,” Putin added, answering one of the questions from citizens around Russia.
The remarks came in the aftermath of the worst escalation of the Karabakh dispute in over two decades, which nearly resulted in a full-blown Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Putin was quick voice serious concern at the outbreak of fierce fighting along the Karabakh “line of contact” on April 2. Russia’s foreign and defense ministers held urgent phone talks with their Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts before Moscow brokered a ceasefire that largely stopped the fighting on April 5.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev further underlined Moscow’s central role in international efforts to de-escalate the conflict when he visited Yerevan and Baku later in the week. Medvedev, who hosted more than a dozen Armenian-Azerbaijani summits when he served as Russia’s president from 2008-2012, said the two sides should “calm down, stop shooting, declare a ceasefire and sit at the negotiating table.”
“Whatever they may say, Russia is interested in a solution to this issue because we want to work in a full-fledged manner with both Azerbaijan and Armenia,” Putin said on Thursday in an apparent reference to suggestions that the unresolved conflict gives Moscow strong leverage against both South Caucasus states. Like other Russian officials, he was careful not to publicly side with either side.
Putin also stressed: “Russia will be making its own contribution but obviously the final solution rests with the people of Armenia and the people of Azerbaijan.”