Armenia and Azerbaijan have described the latest meeting of their leaders as "positive" and "constructive," saying they agreed to strengthen the cease-fire regime in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and continue their dialogue.
"The meeting took place in a positive and constructive atmosphere and provided an opportunity for the two leaders to clarify their respective positions," the foreign ministers of the two countries said in a joint statement on March 29, hours after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Vienna.
"They exchanged views about several key issues of the settlement process and ideas of substance," said the statement, which was also signed by the U.S., Russian, and French mediators co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group.
"The two leaders underlined the importance of building up an environment conducive to peace and taking further concrete and tangible steps in the negotiation process to find a peaceful solution to the conflict."
The statement said Aliyev and Pashinian "recommitted to strengthening the cease-fire" in the disputed region.
"They also agreed to develop a number of measures in the humanitarian field" and to "continue their direct dialogue."
Pashinian also called the summit "positive."
"I cannot say that there has been a breakthrough, revolution, or landmark event in the negotiating process," he later told members of the Armenian community of Austria. "But it is very important that a new process, which allows us to talk about our agendas, ideas and issues, has begun."
"Obviously each of us strongly believes in his own position, but can we start talking not just about our own positions but also the other side's positions?" Pashinian added.
"What is logical in the opposite side's position and what is not? I find the meeting positive in this sense."
Pashinian did not say whether he and Aliyev narrowed their differences over a compromise solution to the Karabakh conflict that has long been advanced by the mediators.
Aliyev was quoted by Russian state-run TASS news agency as saying the talks "were conducted in a constructive atmosphere."
"The foreign ministers of the two countries have held several rounds of talks. The most important fact is that the current meeting gave another start to the negotiation process," the Azerbaijani leader said.
The Vienna summit was Pashinian’s and Aliyev’s fourth face-to-face encounter in six months.
There has been a significant decrease in cease-fire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in recent months.
Nagorno-Karabakh, which is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Since 1994, it has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces that Baku says include troops supplied by Armenia.
The region's claim to independence has not been recognized by any country.
Internationally mediated negotiations involving the OSCE's Minsk Group helped forge a cease-fire in the region that is not always honored. However, the negotiations have failed to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict so far.
Armenia-Azerbaijan Summit Described As 'Positive,' 'Constructive'