YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to work out safeguards against ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh and resume their search for a compromise peace deal during talks in Vienna mediated by the United States, Russia and France late on Monday.
Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev will meet again as early as next month in an attempt to revive the Karabakh peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and France’s State Secretary for Europe Affairs Harlem Desir said after co-hosting the talks.
“The Presidents reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire and the peaceful settlement of the conflict,” read a joint statement issued by them. “To reduce the risk of further violence, they agreed to finalize in the shortest possible time an OSCE investigative mechanism.”
“The Presidents also agreed to the expansion of the existing Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson in Office,” it said, referring to a small multinational team monitoring the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone.
The U.S., Russian and French mediators have for years pressed the conflicting sides to accept these confidence-building measures, hoping to reverse a steady increase in the intensity and frequency of armed incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontlines. They have been backed by the Armenian side but effectively rejected by Azerbaijan until recently. The latter has claimed that the proposed measures would only cement the status quo favorable to the Armenians.
Meanwhile, President Sarkisian questioned Azerbaijan’s commitment to the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone on Tuesday after he and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev agreed on confidence-building measures designed to prevent fresh fighting there.
Sarkisian said at the same time that he is largely “satisfied” with his talks with Aliyev. “The president of Azerbaijan assured that his country and he personally does not aim to solve any issue through hostilities,” he told Armenia’s leading TV channels while flying back to Yerevan. “That is good but it gives us little faith because there have been many conversations before but the fact is that agreements have not been honored [by Azerbaijan] for several years.”
“But we cannot be guided only by our presumptions and predictions because war is not the best solution,” said Sarkisian. “So we will see how events develop.”
“We should not pay too much attention to those agreements considering our past experience,” cautioned Sarkisian. “We have had 20 meetings [with Aliyev.] We agreed on many things during those meetings. But on his return to Baku the president of Azerbaijan made totally different statements. Time will tell how events develop this time around.”
“The important thing for us is the following: the [U.S., Russian and French] co-chairs should once again see that our aim is not to maintain the status quo and wage a perpetual war,” he added.
Even so, the Armenian leader was hopeful that ceasefire violations will now decrease. “I don’t think that they will end starting from tomorrow,” he said. “But I hope that things will be much calmer than they have been until now.”