Russia, US seek to revive Karabakh peace process

8th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia's foreign minister shuttled between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Friday in a bid to revive the ailing peace process over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region after key talks last month failed.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov brought what he said were new proposals after the summit in Russia ended without agreeing on a road-map document setting out "basic principles" for future talks on the Karabakh conflict, amid fears of renewed war.

In Yerevan, Lavrov said he handed a "personal letter" to Armenian leader Serzh Sarkisian from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev outlining the proposals, but gave no details about its content.

"Directly after this meeting I will fly to Baku, where I will give the leadership of Azerbaijan a similar message on behalf of Medvedev," Lavrov said.

"We want the issue resolved, and resolved in such a way that lasting peace and stability will actually be established in our region," Sarkisian told Lavrov.

However Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian again blamed Azerbaijan for undermining the process by demanding changes to the road-map document.

In another sign of international concern over the issue, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned the Armenian president on Thursday to discuss "issues related to the current stage of the NK peace process", according to a statement on Sarkisian's website.

Peace mediators from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe are also due to visit the region next week, US ambassador to Baku Matthew Bryza told local media.

Armenia and Azerbaijan traded bitter accusations after the summit in Russia, which was touted by diplomats as a potential breakthrough but only produced a vague joint statement that noted "the reaching of mutual understanding on a number of questions".

Nagorny Karabakh, whose population is mostly Armenian but which was part of Azerbaijan during the Soviet era, proclaimed its independence after a war which resulted in the deaths of some 30,000 people and created hundreds of thousands of refugees between 1988 and 1994. But it is not recognized by the international community.

There are fears that a new flare-up in the Karabakh conflict could be even bloodier than in the 1990s and potentially threaten pipelines taking Caspian Sea oil and gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

The two enemies still exchange deadly fire across the ceasefire line, with Armenia insisting that Karabakh will never return to Baku's control and Azerbaijan saying that the region must remain part of its sovereign territory.

© 2011 AFP

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