President Ilham Aliyev, left, with President Serzh Sargsyan, foreground

Aliyev, Sargsyan Meet for ‘Constructive’ Talks in Switzerland

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GENEVA (RFE/RL) — The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan reportedly agreed to intensify the protracted search for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and bolster the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone when they met in Geneva on Monday, October 16.

“The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere,” read a joint statement issued by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers as well as the US, Russian and French co-chairs of the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Minsk Group after the talks.

“The Presidents [Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev] agreed to take measures to intensify the negotiation process and to take additional steps to reduce tensions on the Line of Contact,” it said.

“The Co-Chairs expressed their satisfaction with these direct talks, which took place after a long interval … As a next step, the Co-Chairs will organize working sessions with the Ministers in the near future,” added the statement.

The talks began at the official residence of Switzerland’s permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva in the presence of the US, Russian and French mediators. They continued in a tete-a-tete format about an hour later.

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Aliyev and Sargsyan then spoke one-on-one for over 45 minutes, according to Vladimir Hakobian, the Armenian presidential press secretary. In a series of tweets, Hakobian also posted a photograph that showed the two presidents seated around a round table placed in the courtyard of the Swiss diplomatic compound.

After the meeting, Sargsyan met with representatives of the Armenian community in Switzerland.

“We have no concrete agreements on variants of resolving the problem,” Sargsyan told them. “But we agreed to take measures to further ease tensions so that we have no casualties on the frontlines. I must say that both the president of Azerbaijan and I are deeply interested in that.”

“God willing, [Aliyev] will always think so,” Sargsyan said. “He too realizes the complexity of the problem very well and obviously so do I, but the problem is such that there will never be an easy solution to it.”

Sargsyan went on to again rule out any solution that would restore Azerbaijani control over Karabakh. “No Armenian leader will ever take and implement such a decision,” he said.

Aliyev and other Azerbaijani officials did not make public statements immediately after the talks.

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Neither Sargsyan nor the joint statement by the two foreign ministers specified the agreed upon steps aimed at preventing ceasefire violations along “the line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

The two presidents had previously met in May and June last year shortly after four-day deadly hostilities around Karabakh that nearly denigrated into an all-out war. The negotiation process again stalled later in 2016. Aliyev and Sargsyan blamed each other for the deadlock when they addressed the UN General Assembly in New York last month.

Foreign Ministers Edward Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov also attended the meeting.

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