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Burkhalter proposes Azerbaijan–Armenia meeting

Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev, on election day in 2013 Keystone

On the first leg of his trip to the South Caucasus, Swiss President and Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has advocated a meeting between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to find a solution to the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Burkhalter, who is serving this year as chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, called for a structured process to negotiate a peace agreement and for consistent implementation of measures ensuring compliance with a 1994 ceasefire.

“We must progress step by step towards peace”, he said in his capacity as OSCE Chairperson-in Office.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was the main item discussed by Burkhalter and the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in the capital Baku on Monday.

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh between 1988 and 1994, killing tens of thousands of people and forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes. A cease-fire was negotiated in 1994.

“Violent incidents 20 years after the ceasefire are unacceptable to the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship,” Burkhalter said, stressing that the organisation was ready and willing to support both sides in their commitment, if desired.

In January, while speaking to OSCE members in Vienna, Burkhalter highlighted promotion of security and stability as one of the three main goals of the Swiss chairmanship.

Burkhalter is not the first Swiss cabinet member to search for a solution to the conflict. In 2006, in the first-ever visit of a Swiss cabinet minister to Armenia, his predecessor Micheline Calmy-Rey offered Switzerland’s help in mediating between the two sides.

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