Aliyev Kocharian Vow to Keep up Karabagh Talks

ASTANA (AFP)–The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on Thursday promised to continue dialogue on the bitter stand-off between their countries over Mountainous Karabagh. Presidents Robert Kocharian of Armenia and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan held more than three hours of late-night talks in the Kazakh capital–mediated by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin–but gave few clues as to what had passed between them.

"We need time–the president of Azerbaijan knows our position more concretely–the process is continuing constructively," Kocharian said at a joint news conference with Aliyev.

"Further development can resolve this question; we discussed various questions on the path to a resolution," Aliyev said.

Aliyev had earlier stressed the importance of Thursday’s talks over the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–which saw the two neighbors fight a war in the early 1990s and remains unresolved. Aliyev has faced calls at home to take a bolder stand on Karabagh and the thousands of Azeris who have fled the disputed area.

International mediators have urged face-to-face meetings between the two sides–but with the transition of power in Azerbaijan from Aliyev’s father Heydar to Ilham–talks have faltered.

The two leaders on Wednesday held two-way talks before joining Putin for more discussions.

"I am happy to see that you have not lost your optimism. . . and are continuing dialogue at the highest level," Putin said as the talks began in Astana–on the sidelines of a meeting of leaders of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member countries.

"Hopes are very high–despite the complexity of the problem," Putin said–adding that "whatever the result–a meeting of three leaders is always a step forwards."

Aliyev thanked Russia for taking part in the summit talks. "Our neighbor Russia–co-president of the Minsk Group–plays a key part in the settlement," he said.

The Minsk Group–comprising France–Russia–and the United States–has been mediating between the two states for the past decade.

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