By Emil Danielyan
(RFE/RL) – The United States has called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict following last month’s upsurge in fighting that threatened to spark a full-scale Armenian-Azerbaijani war.
Mark Toner, a U.S. State Department spokesman, appealed to the conflicting parties on Thursday as he commented on Armenia’s threats to recognize Karabakh as an independent republic.
“The United States, along with the rest of the international community, does not recognize Nagorno Karabakh,” Toner told a daily news briefing in Washington. “Nagorno Karabakh’s final status will only be resolved in the context of a comprehensive settlement.”
“So we urge the sides to come to the negotiating table in good faith in order to reach a settlement that achieves those goals,” he said.
Toner confirmed that the U.S. continues to stand for a Karabakh settlement based on the internationally recognized principles of territorial integrity, peoples’ right to self-determination, and non-use of force. “But we’ve also very much said that all of this needs to be worked out within the context of the [OSCE] Minsk Group,” he added. “There is a process here, and that process needs to be returned to by all sides.”
The U.S. State Department was quick to express serious concern at the outbreak of heavy fighting around Karabakh on April 2. But unlike Russia, Washington did not seem to engage in intensive diplomacy between the warring sides.
Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Karabakh escalation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in several phone calls reported over the past month, most recently on May 2. The State Department said afterwards that the two men agreed on “the need to continue to try to restore a better sense of calm between the sides.”
Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow is now trying to arrange Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks that will also involve the U.S. and France. The three world powers have long been jointly spearheading international efforts to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal as co-chairs of the Minsk Group.
Kerry also phoned the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents on April 25. He met them in Washington just days before Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in Karabakh on April 2.
As recently in February, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that Azerbaijan’s current economic woes caused by falling oil prices have heightened the risk of a serious flare-up of violence in Karabakh.
“Baku’s sustained military buildup, coupled with declining economic conditions in Azerbaijan, are raising the potential that the conflict will escalate in 2016,” Clapper said in annual testimony before a U.S. Senate committee.