The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet next Monday, Russian and French officials confirmed on Thursday.
The last meeting between Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan was in December 2015 in Bern, Switzerland. The situation has become markedly more tense since then, following four days of fierce fighting at the beginning of April, resulting in dozens of casualties.
The two men will meet in Vienna where the OSCE is based, according to Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russian’s ministry of foreign affairs and Harlem Désir, France's European minister, confirmed on Thursday.
The two presidents will be joined by Sergei Lavrov, John Kerry and Jean-Marc Ayrault, the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States and France, the three countries which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group. According to Euractiv, there will be no European Union envoy present.
“In light of the recent violence and the urgency of reducing tensions along the Line of Contact, we believe the time has come for the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to meet,” the Minsk Group said in a statement.
David Babayan, a spokesman for the government of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, voiced his support for the Minsk process and welcomed the upcoming meeting.
“A lot of time is needed to restore the full format, but it has no alternative, especially after this four-day war,” he said.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that Russia, which brokered the tenuous ceasefire agreement signed on April 5, is willing to help end the conflict. “Moscow welcomes all steps aimed at ending tension in the conflict zone and returning to dialogue to find political settlement option,” he said.
SOURCE: commonspace.eu and agencies
PHOTO: Aliyev and Sargsyan with Russian prime minister Dmitri Medvedev (kremlin.ru)