Switzerland Rejects 'Status Quo' in Stalled Karabakh Talks


Swiss President Didier Burkhalter on Wednesday called on arch-foes Azerbaijan and Armenia to revitalize stalled negotiations on resolving their decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.

"The status quo is not really an option. We have to move to peace step by step," Burkhalter -- who is also chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- told a news conference in Yerevan.

He said Switzerland was ready to contribute towards finding a peaceful solution to the conflict and backed a proposal for a meeting in Paris between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.

"We are ready to develop Swiss support, Swiss contribution in this process," Burkhalter said.

"The new meeting of two presidents should be a starting point for new phase in negotiations."

In Yerevan, the Swiss president concluded a three-day visit to the South Caucasus, which saw him holding high-level talks in Azerbaijan on Monday and Georgia on Tuesday.

There has been an increase in violence in recent months along the Azerbaijan-Armenia border and at the Karabakh frontline, with both sides regularly accusing the other of tit-for-tat raids.

Armenia-backed separatists seized Nagorny Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a 1990s war that killed 30,000 people. Despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have yet to sign a peace deal.

Azerbaijan has threatened to take back the disputed region by force if negotiations do not yield results, while Armenia has vowed to retaliate against any military action.

The Karabakh peace talks are mediated by the so-called OSCE Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States.

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