Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan (right, at back) and Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov (left, at back) with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Washington

Armenian, Azeri Foreign Ministers Meet in Washington: With Special Video Report of Mnatsakanyan Briefing

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WASHINGTON (RFE/RL and Armenpress) — The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in Washington on June 20 under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs.

US, Russian and French diplomats urged the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to prevent further ceasefire violations. The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group said the talks focused on recent armed incidents around Karabakh and “core issues of the settlement process.” Neither they nor the conflicting parties reported major progress towards a long-awaited peace accord.

“Noting with regret recent casualties, the co-chairs urged the sides to take immediate measures to restore an atmosphere conducive to peace and favorable to substantive talks,” the mediators said in a joint statement.

“They called on the sides to reaffirm their commitment to observe the ceasefire strictly and to refrain from any provocative action, including the use of snipers and engineering works along the line of contact and the international border,” they added.

There is no alternative to the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told reporters following his meeting with Azerbaijani FM Elmar Mammadyarov, Voice of America reported.

According to the statement, Foreign Ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov agreed on the need to “reduce the risk of escalation” and pledged to meet again “in the near future.”

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“The ceasefire violations are key challenges. It is necessary to reduce the threat of increase of tension thanks to which it will be possible to ensure a respective environment for moving forward,” Mnatsakanyan stated.

For its part, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the mediators “shared ideas aimed at pushing the peace process forward, including in the humanitarian sphere.” Speaking to journalists in the US capital, Mnatsakanyan stressed the importance of strengthening the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone and thus creating an “appropriate environment” for a peaceful settlement.

Truce violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” escalated in late May and early June after several months of unusual calm. They had decreased significantly since Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev first met in September. The two leaders also talked on four other occasions in the following months, raising some hopes for progress in the protracted peace process.

“The recent developments [tension in the NK conflict zone] have their impact on the negotiation process. We should be cautious and remain committed to the agreements we have reached in the previous months. And this was the very important part of our negotiations of today,” Mnatsakanyan said.

The Azerbaijani foreign minister noted that the ideas and provisions existing in the debated document have not changed. The Armenian and Azerbaijani sides have disagreements on several provisions and details. A political will is necessary for moving forward. According to him, even the existing ceasefire violations should not hinder moving forward the process. “The idea is the same. We are moving forward based on the same peace program which is on the table already in the past 15 years,” Mammadyarov said.

The Armenian service of the Voice of America quoted Mammadyarov as saying after the meeting that the mediators presented the two ministers with “additional substantive proposals.” He did not disclose them.

Mammadyarov also told reporters that the two sides continue to disagree on details of a peace formula which he said has been advanced by the United States, Russia and France for the last 15 years.

It calls for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts around the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast which were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war. In return, Karabakh’s predominantly ethnic Armenian population would determine the disputed territory’s internationally recognized status in a future referendum.

Mnatsakanyan and Mammadyarov have also negotiated on a regular basis. Ahead of their talks in Washington the two ministers met separately with US National Security Adviser John Bolton and senior US State Department officials.

The June 20 briefing below was filmed and prepared by Haykaram Nahapetyan, the Mirror-Spectator Video Correspondent in Washington.

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