In comments for an article published by EurasiaNet on 23 April entitled, “Coronavirus quiets fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” RSC Director Richard Giragosian welcomed the “virtual meeting” between Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov on 22 April.

Giragosian explained that “reflecting the unprecedented global VOVID-19 crisis, the latest round in the Nagorno Karabakh peace process was a “virtual meeting” between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.  Facilitated by video conference and joined by OSCE Minsk Group as usual, the virtual meeting was both unusual and significant.”

He explained that “the video conference was obviously unusual for its format. For example, over many years, the Karabakh conflict served as the driver of a “digital duel” marked by an Internet “war of words” that featured an often-heated exchange of aggressive accusations and rhetorical recriminations. This time, however, that online bluff and bluster was replaced by a new, more constructive round of “digital diplomacy.”

“Yet in addition to its unusual nature, the virtual meeting was also significant for more than its substance. The video conference was important as a demonstration of a new opportunity for diplomatic engagement that can be both more productive by convening more often, perhaps on a monthly basis, and more constructive, as an informal way to bring in all parties to the conflict to the discussion, with less inference or interference. That latter context would provide a mechanism for “status-neutral” engagement designed to widen the peace process by incorporating all parties to the conflict, thereby broadening the scale and scope of the stakeholders for peace. This would also greatly bolster the concept of confidence-building measures and inject a fresh degree of energy in an otherwise stalled and deadlocked negotiating process.”

“At the same time, the utility of such digital diplomacy demonstrates that this unprecedented period of global crisis necessitates a broader perspective, defined by a larger vision of the need for putting aside the usual discourse, at least temporarily. More specifically, this new perspective entails a more sincere commitment to uphold the fragile ceasefire and curtail skirmishes considering the new context of recognizing COVID-19 as a common enemy.”