French Say Mediators To Continue Nagorno-Karabakh Shuttle Diplomacy

YEREVAN — International mediators will again soon visit Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh to try to salvage the stalled Armenian-Azerbaijani peace process, the French Foreign Ministry has announced.

In a written statement, the ministry said late on June 27 that French, Russian, and U.S. diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group will begin the next round of regional shuttle diplomacy “in coming weeks” in an effort to “prepare the continuation of negotiations.”

The co-chairs already toured the conflict zone earlier this month, ahead of the June 24 Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Kazan that the mediating powers hoped would mark a turning point in their protracted peace efforts. Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sarkisian failed at that meeting, which was mediated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, reach to an agreement on the basic principles of resolving the Karabakh conflict at that meeting.

The U.S. State Department described the outcome of the summit “disappointing.” U.S. President Barack Obama last week personally pressed Aliyev and Sarkisian to cut a framework peace accord in Kazan.

By contrast, the French Foreign Ministry sought to put an optimistic spin on the meeting, citing a joint statement issued by the Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Russian presidents after the trilateral summit. “As stated in the statement, the meeting in Kazan identified or confirmed several points of understanding, enabling to continue negotiations on the present basis for the subsequent adoption of the principles of settlement proposed by the mediators,” it said.

“The result is not negligible; France, with its partners in the U.S. and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group, will spare no efforts to assist all parties in the pursuit of negotiations,” the ministry statement added.

Speaking at a news briefing in Washington on June 27, U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland likewise said Aliyev and Sarkisian “noted that they had improved their understanding on a number of issues, agreed to keep working on the basic principles, and to come back together at a future date to be specified.”

According to the Moscow daily “Kommersant,” Medvedev warned his Armenian and Armenian counterparts that he would host more talks between them only if they “firmly” promised to accept the basic principles of Karabakh peace proposed by the mediators.

Unnamed Russian officials cited by the paper said Medvedev was frustrated with the lack of decisive progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. One of them also downplayed the significance of the Kazan statement, which said the conflicting parties reached a “mutual understanding on a number of issues whose resolution would help to create conditions for the approval of the basic principles.”

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