The U.S. and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and other diplomats meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Yerevan, December 14, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — Russia has boycotted a multilateral discussion on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict initiated by the United States within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

“The U.S. OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair spoke with her counterparts today to discuss the future of Nagorno-Karabakh,” tweeted the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

“It’s unfortunate the Russian Co-Chair [of the Minsk Group] did not accept the invitation. We look forward to the Minsk Group’s continuing work,” it said.

The State Department division did not specify who else took part in that discussion or give any other details.

The U.S., Russia and France have for decades jointly tried to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord in their capacity as the co-chairs of the Minsk Group. According to Russian officials, Washington and Paris stopped working with Moscow in that format following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried denied the Russian claims when she visited Yerevan on June 18. She told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the Minsk Group remains a “very important format” for Washington.

The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed Donfried’s assurances on June 22. A ministry spokeswoman said the U.S. and France caused “irreparable damage” to the mediating format as a result of their broader attempts to isolate Russia on the international stage.

Visiting Baku two days later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that “the Minsk Group stopped its activities at the initiative of the American and French co-chairs.”

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan suggested on Monday that Lavrov’s comments contradict one of the provisions of his joint declaration with Russian President Vladimir Putin adopted in April. It stresses “the importance of using the potential and experience of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship institute in accordance with its international mandate.”

“I think that this contradiction needs to be clarified,” Pashinyan said, adding that the Minsk Group is not dead.

In recent weeks, Armenia’s leaders have called on the U.S., Russian and French mediators to resume their joint peace efforts.

By contrast, Azerbaijani officials and President Ilham Aliyev in particular have repeatedly questioned the need for the group’s continued existence. Aliyev has said that Azerbaijan’s victory in the 2020 war with Armenia put an end to the Karabakh conflict.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry urged Yerevan to “stop wasting time on restoring a format the effectiveness of which was always low.”

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