Armenian, Azeri FMs in First Talks on Karabakh

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (RFE/RL) —Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov met for the first time late on Wednesday, July 11, to discuss ways of reviving the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

The four-hour talks in Brussels began in the presence of the US, Russian and French mediators co-chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group.

“The meeting had an introductory character and was intended for familiarizing with each other’s views,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released the following morning.

It said Mnatsakanyan stressed the importance of respecting the ceasefire regime in the Karabakh conflict zone, creating an “atmosphere conducive to peace” and avoiding “aggressive rhetoric.”

“The co-chairs briefed the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers on their upcoming plans. Further steps were discussed,” the statement added without elaborating.

According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Mammadyarov and Mnatsakanyan discussed the stalled peace process “in detail.” The APA news agency quoted a ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, saying that the sides agreed on the need to “continue negotiations in the existing format.” The ministers also “exchanged views on steps taken for the purpose of advancing the peace process,” he said.

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The mediators reported, for their part, that the two ministers considered “a range of possible confidence-building measures” at their first meeting. “The co-chairs ‎stressed the importance of reducing tensions and avoiding inflammatory rhetoric,” they said in a joint statement issued on Thursday.

“The Ministers agreed to meet again in the near future under the auspices of the co-chairs,” added the statement.

Armenia’s former President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pledged a renewed push for a Karabakh peace at their last face-to-face meeting held in Geneva in October 2017. Their foreign ministers held what they described as “positive” follow-up talks in December and January. The mediators said in February that the two sides have pledged to “continue intensive negotiations” after forthcoming electoral processes in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Aliyev was subsequently reelected for another term in office, while Sarkisian was forced to resign amid mass protests in Armenia against his continued rule.

 

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