VIENNA — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised Armenia and Azerbaijan on Thursday for resuming their high-level talks on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In a joint statement, they also urged both sides to take specific measures to prevent ceasefire violations and avoid “further delays” in negotiating a compromise peace deal.
“We express satisfaction with the intensified negotiations, and appeal to the sides to focus their efforts on finding compromise solutions to the substantive issues of political settlement,” said the statement. “Further delays will only complicate the situation and could call into question the commitment of the Parties to reach a lasting agreement.”
Tillerson and Lavrov issued the statement in Vienna during an annual meeting of top diplomats from countries making up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It was also signed by France’s permanent representative to the OSCE. The United States, Russia and France have been spearheading international efforts to mediate a Karabakh settlement through the OSCE’s Minsk Group.
The statement specifically welcomed the October 16 Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Geneva and a meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers held in Vienna late on Wednesday. It said the American, French and Russian diplomats co-chairing the Minsk Group have been instructed to continue pressing for “compromises on the working proposals submitted to the Parties.”
Tillerson and Lavrov further urged the parties to comply with their confidence-building agreements reached following the April 2016 hostilities in Karabakh. “With reference to the declared commitment of the two Presidents to take additional measures to reduce tension on the line of contact, we urge Baku and Yerevan to accept the expansion of the existing Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office,” they said.
“Other decisions adopted during the Summits in Vienna and St. Petersburg in 2016 should also be implemented,” the statement added in an apparent reference to a mechanism for OSCE investigations of truce violations.
Azerbaijan has been reluctant to implement these safeguards against renewed fighting, saying that they would cement the status quo. Armenia maintains that such measures are essential for achieving progress towards a peaceful settlement.