NEW YORK — The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in New York late on Wednesday for fresh talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which official Yerevan described as “useful.”
The three-hour talks between Zohrab Mnatsakanian and Elmar Mammadyarov began in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group. The two ministers then had a one-on-one discussion.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry called the talks a “useful exchange of thoughts” on how to resolve the Karabakh conflict. “The interlocutors agreed to continue the dialogue, including within the framework of the co-chairs’ upcoming visit to the region,” it said in a statement.
Mammadyarov made similar comments on what was his second meeting with Mnatsakanian in over two months. “It was an interesting and important exchange of views on continuing developments in the conflict’s resolution as well as about what needs to be done for establishing a lasting peace in the region,” the Azerbaijani news agency Trend quoted him as saying.
“We agreed to continue negotiations next month, including through the co-chairs’ visit to the region,” added the Azerbaijani minister.
Speaking earlier on Wednesday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tigran Balayan, reiterated the official Armenian line that major progress towards a Karabakh settlement requires an “atmosphere conducive to peace.” In that regard, Balayan pointed to Baku’s reluctance to implement confidence-building agreements that were reached by the leaders of the two warring nations in 2016.
Those agreements envisage specific safeguards against deadly ceasefire violations along the “line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Tension on those frontlines seems to have somewhat increased in recent weeks. Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army reported that one of its soldiers, Aghasi Mkrtchian, was shot dead by Azerbaijani forces on Wednesday evening.
Mammadyarov and Mnatsakanian met in New York the day after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian hit out at Azerbaijan in a speech delivered at a session of the UN General Assembly.
Pashinian portrayed Baku’s refusal to directly negotiate with Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leader as further proof of its desire to “cleanse Armenians from Karabakh.”
“How can Azerbaijan lay claim to Nagorno-Karabakh without even speaking to Nagorno-Karabakh?” he said. “Is this possible? This is possible only if the Azerbaijani government wants the territory but not its people.”
The Armenian leader also stated that the Karabakh dispute must be resolved through “mutual concessions by all sides.” He did not elaborate.
Baku was quick to condemn Pashinian’s remarks. A top foreign policy aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said they could torpedo the peace process.