The President of the Swiss Confederation is in Armenia on the last leg of his visit to the South Caucasus. Didier Burkhalter, who is also the current Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, met with the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and other Armenian officials. Shortly after his arrival in Yerevan, Burkhalter visited the "Armenian Genocide Memorial" where he paid his respects to the victims of the atrocities committed in Anatolia at the begining of the 20th century.
Relations between Armenia and Turkey were expected to feature in Burkhalter's talks with the Armenian leadership. Switzerland has been involved for a number of years in intensive mediation efforts between the two countries. The other main issue under discussion was the Karabakh conflict and Swiss attempts to take the ongoing negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Process to a more advanced level, leading to the signing of a peace agreement. Azerbaijan gave a cautious welcome to the Swiss initiative during the visit of Burkhalter to Baku on Monday.
Speaking after his meeting with Burkhalter, the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan described the Karabakh conflict as a "national liberation struggle" and said that the interests of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh need to be at the centre of any resolution of the conflict.
In Yerevan the President of the Swiss Confederation and current Chairman of the OSCE also met with a delegation from the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) led by its President Bako Sahakyan. This was a rare meeting between a head of state and the leader of an unrecognised entity. President Burkhalter used his role as OSCE chairman to bypass protocol and have the meeting, re-enforcing the Swiss Government's position of the need for an inclusive peace process involving all the interested sides. However despite Sahakyan's call for NKR to join the formal peace process this is unlikely to happen soon, and will depend on considerable progress in the negotiations.
Commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment:
This has been one of the most successful visits by a current OSCE Chairman to the South Caucasus for many years. These annual visits are often seen as a chore by the politicians holding the the OSCE Chairmanship. The Swiss presidency has however clearly prioritised the South Caucasus in its leadership of the OSCE for this year and the visit has been well prepared in a number of ways. the visit has positively contributed to improving the prospects for re-energising the peace process. However both Armenia and Azerbaijan will need to engage constructively and quickly if the momentum is to be maintained.
photo: Swiss President Didier Burkhalter at a meeting with the leadership of the self-declared Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Yerevan on 4 June 2014.