By Emilio Luciano Cricchio
Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov met in Bratislava, Slovakia on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Conference on December 4.
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, Igor Popov (Russia), Stéphane Visconti (France), Andrew Schoffer (U.S.) and Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office were also present during the meeting.
The meeting lasted more than three hours, without a joint statement being made at the end.
“The ministers discussed programs to strengthen the ceasefire, implement confidence-building measures, and continue joint work early next year,” reads the Armenian Foreign Ministry statement.
“The Armenian foreign minister stressed the modest result achieved within the framework of the agreements on the preparation of peoples for peace, the exchange of journalists from Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. The importance of implementing other confidence building measures were also stressed.”
Referring to the meeting with the Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan in Yerevan on the eve of the meeting in Bratislava, “Mnatsakanyan stressed the need for direct involvement of the Artsakh authorities, especially around substantive issues of peace settlement.”
Earlier in the week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Baku expressed hope that there would be a five-sided statement with the participation of two Ministers, as well as the Ministers of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chair Countries, Russia, France and the USA.
“If for some reason this is not possible, the three co-chairs will express their position on paper. But I hope it will be a five-sided statement," he said.
“Every year we strive in the OSCE Council of Ministers to record on paper the basic principles that have been endorsed by the parties for many years and maintain their vitality and relevance,” Lavrov said in a press conference in Baku.
On the eve of Bratislava meeting, Azerbaijani representation at the OSCE presented a document at the ministerial conference regarding its position on the Nagorno Karabakh peace settlement, reiterating its stance that the conflict must be solved within Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, and calling for the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the territories of Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent territories.
Armenia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Armen Papikyan called this “an unconstructive approach by Baku.”
“This is neither the first nor the last similar statement made by the Representatives of Azerbaijan. Probably, the only difference is that it is made amidst the continuous political reshuffling in Azerbaijan, which attests that at this stage Azerbaijan is not ready for a constructive engagement. Drifting from negotiations based on maximalist approaches is a sign of weakness”, he said in an interview with Armenpress news agency.
The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, now Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)) to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.