Leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan Meet in Wake of Azeri Attacks


President Serge Sargisian and President Ilham Aliyev

President Serge Sargisian and President Ilham Aliyev

BERN, Switzerland (RFE/RL) — The Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents, Serge Sargisian and Ilham Aliyev, met in Bern in a bid to settle their longstanding conflict over Nagorno-Karabagh.

The December 19 meeting in the Swiss capital came amid heightened tensions as clashes erupt regularly along the border shared by the two states.

The Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents last met in Paris in October 2014.

The latest talks, which were held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, appeared to have made little headway.

“During the meeting, the two sides exchanged views on different aspects of the conflict resolution,” Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian said after the talks. “Unfortunately, the two sides’ attitudes don’t coincide.”

But Nalbandian, who along with his Azerbaijani counterpart joined the talks after the presidents’ one-on-one meeting, said it was “extremely important that talks continue as dialogue has no alternative.”

Nalbandian added that the meeting agenda had been “influenced by the escalation of the situation, by Azerbaijani provocations, by blatant violations of the cease-fire.”

In a statement, the U.S., Russian, and French mediators said the talks had “created an opportunity for the presidents to clarify their respective positions.”

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who hosted the meeting, said the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict “could only be resolved by a comprehensive negotiation process.”

Ahead of the meeting, the Minsk Group said it hoped that Sargisian and Aliyev would agree to boost the cease-fire regime and revive the protracted search for a compromise peace deal.

OSCE mediators recently warned that “the status quo has become unsustainable” over Nagorno-Karabagh.

One Azerbaijani and three Armenian soldiers were killed near Nagorno-Karabagh on December 17 and 18 in an escalation of violence.

Azerbaijani armed forces continuously violated the ceasefire on the contact line with Nagorno Karabagh on the night of December 21-22, Armenian sources reported.

According to the Karabagh Defense Ministry, during that period Azerbaijani armed forces fired 900 shots from various caliber artillery weapons, 60-, 82-mm mortars, AGS-17 and AGM-9 grenade launchers, as well as TR-107 rocket launcher.

The Azerbaijani side has also used D-30 122-mm howitzer.

According to the Karabagh Defense Ministry, on the night of December 20-21 Azerbaijani armed forces have fired 1700 shots from various caliber artillery weapons, 60-, 82- and 120-mm mortars, AGS-17 and RPG-7 grenade launchers, as well as TR-107 rocket launcher.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry declared on December 20 that the Azerbaijani ceasefire violations have increased in depth and intensity.

“The Ministry has briefed the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk on the situation; the ambassador in turn, has informed the OSCE Minsk Group about the escalation on the contact line,” the statement reads.

Following the Armenian-Azerbaijani Presidents’ meeting in Swiss Bern on December 19, the MG Co-chairs issued a joint statement, stating that the Presidents have expressed support to the Co-chairs’ efforts in the Karabagh peace process, committing themselves to the reduction of violence risk on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, with the measures to include the use of border investigation mechanisms.