STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — Armenia and Azerbaijan have held no “serious” peace talks since August, President Serzh Sarkisian said on Sunday after inspecting Armenian military bases and frontline positions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The last serious conversation on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue took place on August 10. There have been no serious conversations on the issue since then,” he told a group of Armenian artists and intellectuals in Stepanakert.
Sarkisian appeared to refer to his August 10 meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It came nearly two months after Putin hosted an Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Saint Petersburg.
In a joint statement with Putin issued in the Russian city, Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev hinted at progress towards a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict. It was expected that the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders will meet again soon and try to build on the apparent progress. However, they have still not scheduled follow-up talks despite repeated appeals from international mediators.
As recently as last Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Russian and French foreign ministers urged Sarkisian and Aliyev to “demonstrate flexibility and to return to the negotiation table.” “Unless progress can be made on negotiations, the prospects for renewed violence will only increase, and the parties will bear full responsibility,” they warned in a joint statement issued in Hamburg.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in the German city later on December 8. They announced no concrete agreements afterwards.
Sarkisian spoke in Stepanakert at the end of a three-day trip to Karabakh during which he met with the Karabakh Armenian army’s top brass, inspected several military bases and visited some sections of “the line of contact” around the territory. According to his press office, Sarkisian familiarized himself with new defense fortifications that have been built there after heavy fighting with Azerbaijani troops in early April.
Commenting on the timing of the trip, the Armenian president said Karabakh’s population and armed forces “should be prepared to go through a difficult period.” “The army has many needs and those needs have to be assessed because our resources are not unlimited and all issues cannot be solved at once,” he said. “That is why we need to assess the needs, see which of them are primary and solve those issues.”