Armenian, Azerbaijani FMs hold first virtual meeting, agree to abide by ceasefire amidst global crisis
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have held online negotiations for the first time
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov was organized by the mediators of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, who say the situation created due to the spread of the coronavirus should not impede the continuation of negotiations. The online ministerial conference lasted almost two hours.
As reported on the OSCE website, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Elmar Mammadyarov discussed further steps in the framework of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They agreed to continue the negotiation process in the near future.
During the video call, there was also a discussion of the impact of the global COVID 19 pandemic on life in the region and on previously planned events. In particular, the meeting of ministers and the visits of the co-chairs to the region were postponed.
The online negotiations were notable for the fact that the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke about the importance of observing the ceasefire and refusing any provocations in the context of the global crisis.
Information from Yerevan
The online meeting between Mnatsakanyan and Mamedyarov was announced on the evening of April 20.
On April 21, during a press conference in Yerevan shortly before the online negotiations, the head of the Armenian Foreign Ministry stated that the search for approaches to a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict should continue, even in the difficult situation created due to the coronavirus pandemic:
“In a situation where the attention of the whole world is focused on combating the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining a ceasefire and eliminating any risks (in the conflict zone) are more than priority tasks.”
During the same press conference, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan also commented on a statement recently made by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said that a stage-by-stage settlement of the Karabakh conflict is being discussed, which both Armenian parties to the conflict consider an unacceptable approach to resolving the conflict.
“The solution of the most pressing problems – the liberation of a number of areas around Nagorno-Karabakh and the unblocking of transport, economic and other communications, are the first stage”, the Russian minister said.
To which, immediately before the online negotiations with the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan replied: the territories that Lavrov spoke about, among other things, are a security and defense zone for Karabakh.
“It is impossible to think that one of the Armenian parties may make concessions that could jeopardize the people of Artsakh,” the Armenian Foreign Minister said.
He emphasized that a peaceful settlement is possible as a result of mutual concessions, and “they must be proportionate.”
Information from Nagorno-Karabakh – Azerbaijani drone shot down at the front line
Just before the online talks between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, it was reported that the air defense units of Nagorno-Karabakh in the southern direction of the front line shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle of Azerbaijan on April 21.
In a statement, the press service of the Karabakh defense army said that recently, flights of Azerbaijani drones on the front lines:
Armenian experts believe that this incident is ‘yet another attempt’ to aggravate the situation on the contact line of troops, which usually occurs on the eve of official negotiations on Karabakh.
Information from Baku
Azerbaijan did not particularly comment on either the ministerial meeting or the information about the downed drone.
The statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry added little to the OSCE statement.
JAMnews political analyst Shahin Rzayev believes:
“These negotiations differed from all the previous ones only in their format – that is, in that they were conducted online. But they didn’t tell us anything new. Imitation and pointlessness continues. Well, perhaps the coronavirus brought some new color to this tedious process.”