James Warlick: OSCE Minsk Group concerned over tension at the border

The US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group says the mission is concerned over the recent violence along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the Line of Contact surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, Tert.am reports.

At a news conference held at the US Embassy in Yerevan, James Warlick voiced alarm over Azerbaijan’s arms build-up and the possible risks it poses to the region.

“We are working closely with the Russians and communicate regularly with the Russian co-chair in the framework of the Minsk Group. Despite our difference in other parts of the world, we see the way forward. And we want to coordinate our diplomacy and work together, and I hope we can, at some point as mediators, achieve a lasting settlement [of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict]. We are concerned about the arms buildup and risks it poses for peace and for successful negotiations. That’s our shared goal of peace,” he said.

The diplomat stressed the role of the conflicting countries’ active efforts towards reducing the tension in the border zone.

“This isn’t an issue for co-chairs to deal with directly, but we do talk about the issue of violence along the Line of Contact and along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. We are concerned about the violence that has taken place and the deaths and injuries it has resulted, and if we are to find a way to a lasting peace, we know that violence must stop and the ceasefire must be respected.”

Asked whether he doesn’t think that the continuing negotiations bear a formal character against the backdrop of the recent border tensions, Mr Warlick replied, “Well, I understand that people are frustrated, as the negotiations have been going on for twenty years now. The war that took place from 1992 to 1994 was devastating for the countries, for both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and we don’t ever want to see those days return. Negotiations that cover such an important issue are never easy, but as I said before, there is a window of opportunities.”

In that context, he recalled particularly the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents’ 2013 meeting in Vienna and their recent talks with Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Wales.

He further stressed the importance of reaching a new level in the negotiations. “The time has come to move the negotiations to another level. It’s not enough for the presidents to meet on an occasional basis or foreign minister to meet on an occasional basis. There needs to be a more formal negotiating process. And it’s up to the parties to determine what that format should be and what that process should be. We are not predetermining an outcome, we are not asking any of the parties to make compromises, we are asking for a process to begin,” the diplomat said.

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