U.S. is ‘hopeful’ Azerbaijani, Armenian presidents could agree to intensify their dialogue in 2016.
After a year of break, Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents are expected to meet by late December to discuss the ways of resolving the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The last substantive meeting between Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia took place in France last October. The details of the upcoming meeting still had to be worked out, but the officials of both sides and the OSCE Minsk co-chairs hopeful the Presidents could meet before the end of 2015.
Although the diplomats of the United States, Russia and France – the co-chair countries of the mediating Minsk Group – supported the idea of confidence-building measures between the sides and worked to organize the meeting, Yerevan again resorts to provocation against Baku escalating tension on the contact line of two countries’ troops. Armenia’s sabotage and provocative moves on the contact line aggravated since early 2015, and still the Armenian side continues to shell Azerbaijani positions and settlements located near the contact line.
The U.S. State Department voiced hope that the sides will address the need to reduce tensions and continue discussions on elements of a settlement.
“Ultimately, the responsibility for peace falls on the shoulders of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. They must take the brave step of preparing their countries for a peaceful settlement of this longstanding conflict. We hope the upcoming summit will bring the sides closer to a resolution and galvanize the peace process,” a State Department wrote in an e-mail to AzerNews.
“We also hope the sides will reaffirm their commitment to reaching a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the conflict within the Minsk Group format, and agree to intensify their dialogue in 2016,” the official said.
For over two decades, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in conflict which emerged over Armenia’s territorial claims against its South Caucasus neighbor. Since a war in the early 1990s, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions.
Urging the sides to strictly adhere to the ceasefire regime, the United States expressed support to the proposals to reduce the risk of violence along the contact line and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
“Our Minsk Group Co-Chair, Ambassador James Warlick, together with his Russian and French counterparts, continues to discuss these measures with the sides,” the official said, adding that another way to reduce tensions is to increase people-to-people contacts, especially among the communities of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Armenians and Azerbaijanis lived side-by-side for generations. For peace to come, they will need to trust each other once again,” the official said.
The international community has repeatedly voiced support to a dialogue between Armenian and Azerbaijani communities for resolution of the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. While Azerbaijan also supports such a proposal, Armenia continues to ignore these calls.
The official further added that as a Minsk Group Co-Chair, the United States remains fully committed to working with the sides on mediating a settlement, but the decision to usher in a new era of peace lies with the sides.
Robert Cekuta, U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan also voiced hope that the meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents will be successful. Cekuta earlier said the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are working hard to push the process around the Nagorno-Karabakh forward.
But not all expect positive results from the summit of the Presidents, as they doubtful on Armenia’s intention to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Azerbaijani MP Asim Mollazade said he doesn’t believe that Armenia can take any moves in direction of peaceful solution of the conflict.
He told AzerNews that the Armenian side, which occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territories, is attempting to deceive the international public opinion with such meetings.
“In fact, this is imitation of negotiations,” Mollazade said, adding that such an imitation of the negotiations for over many years has not yielded any results.
“We would like the OSCE Minsk Group to stat real work on conflict resolution and make decisions on based on the norms of international law,” he said.
A fragile ceasefire has been in place since 1994, but long-standing efforts by U.S, Russian and French mediators yielded no results. Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. Security Council’s four resolutions on its pullout from the neighboring country’s territories.
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