On April 28, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov hosted Edward Nalbandian of Armenia and Elmar Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan for consultations about the Karabakh conflict. Earlier this year, Lavrov met with the two ministers separately, in January and again in March. Nalbandian and Mammadyarov also met with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs during the Munich Security Conference in February. Representatives from France, U.S. and OSCE were also present at the latest Moscow meeting, where the ministers “agreed to continue contacts.”
The consultations are intended primarily as a preparatory stage for a new presidential summit. Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev had two meetings last year, following the escalation of fighting in April, but have not me in the last ten months. At the meetings in Vienna in May and Saint Petersburg in June, Aliyev appeared for a moment to have dropped his objections against an expanded OSCE monitoring mission in Karabakh, but has since backtracked.
Furthermore, Azerbaijan has in recent month sought to cut funding to the OSCE office in Yerevan, having previously shut down the OSCE office in Baku. And on the Line of Contact, while the general quiet prevailed since two small-scale Azerbaijani attacks in February, there has been an uptick in sniper fire in recent weeks, ahead of the ministers’ meeting, causing two Armenian fatalities on April 24 and 28.
In other news, Azerbaijan is currently preparing to host the Islamic Solidarity Games, a sports event involving athletes from majority Muslim countries, from May 12 to 22. The Line of Contact stayed relatively quiet in the run up and during past such events in Baku, including May 2012 Eurovision contest and the European Games in June 2015.