US Envoy in Armenia for Karabakh Peace Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL–OSCE)–A senior US official on Friday held talks with Armenian leaders in Yerevan on prospects for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The decade-long territorial dispute topped the agenda of meetings between US Assistant Secretary of State Steven Sestanovich and President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan–officials said. Sestanovich arrived in the Armenian capital earlier in they and will fly on to neighboring Azerbaijan on Saturday.

An Armenian foreign ministry spokesman told RFE/RL that the two sides were discussing ways to "spur" the Karabakh peace process that showed signs of progress last year but has effectively stalled since the October 27 shootings in the Armenian parliament. The Armenian authorities have been largely preoccupied with domestic affairs ever since.

Premier Sargsyan was quoted by his spokesman as calling on Friday for a "quick and optimal solution" to the conflict with Azerbaijan. Kocharian and his Azeri counterpart Haydar Aliyev are scheduled to meet next week in Moscow on the sidelines of a CIS summit.

The US–Russia and France are the co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–the main international body trying to broker a peace deal on the disputed territory. Sestanovich is accompanied by the current US representative in the Group–Carey Cavanaugh.

The US envoy arrived in Armenia from Turkey. A government spokesman’said a normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations was also discussed during his talks with Sargsyan.

Meanwhile in Vienna–the OSCE Ministerial Troika–Foreign Ministers Wolfgang Schnssel of Austria–Petre Roman of Romania–and Knut Vollebek of Norway–met today in Vienna under Austrian chairmanship–announced the OSCE.

The Secretary General of the OSCE–Ambassador Jan Kubis–also took part in the meeting. Other participants were the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights–Gerard Stoudmann–the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media–Freimut Duve–and the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly–Helle Degn.

The Ministers discussed a number of issues of concern to the OSCE–among them the conflict in Chechnya–Nagorno-Karabakh–the OSCE Mission in Kosovo–as well as the overall situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The Ministers welcomed the continued direct dialogue on Nagorno-Karabakh between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and expressed their appreciation for the work of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. In case of an agreement–the OSCE would stand ready to play an important role in its implementation.

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