Azerbaijan called road repair in Artsakh such as this “provocative.” Photo courtesy of Armenia Fund.

Mediators from France, Russia and the United States “noted with concern that recent provocative statements, inflammatory rhetoric, and possible steps intended to change the situation on the ground in tangible ways could undermine the settlement process” in Karabakh negotiations. This is according to June 30 statement issued by the OSCE Minsk Group that came after two days of video conferencing with foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Overall, the Line of Contact situation has remained stable and the two countries’ leaders have focused mostly on the Coronavirus pandemic. But in recent weeks senior Azerbaijani officials have been dropping hints that that might change and both Ilham Aliyev and his defense minister engaged in public polemics against Armenia.

In line with this rhetoric, at the end of June the Azerbaijani defense ministry doubled the number of “cease-fire violations” it was reporting, which in the past served as a barometer of hostility being projected rather than actual situation on the ground.

Another indication of diverging position was absence of a joint statement being issued at the end of talks today. A joint statement was issued after the last round of video conference talks in April.

In a separate statement, the Azerbaijani foreign ministry claimed that “provocative actions by Armenia bring to the escalation of rhetoric” and pointed to “infrastructural changes in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,” presumably referring to recently announced repair of roads connecting Armenia and Artsakh.

In their statement “the Co-Chairs also stressed the urgency of resuming monitoring exercises under the leadership of the PRCIO as soon as conditions allow.” PRCIO stands for the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, the position held by Amb. Andrzej Kasprzyk. The monitoring was suspended in March due to Covid-19 closures.

According to the statement, another video conference was agreed to be held in July.