Russia Ready to Act as Intermediary in South Caucasus Conflicts

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russian president Vladimir Putin affirmed his readiness to act only as an intermediary in the settlement of the Karabagh conflict.

"Russia will do everything possible to settle the conflicts remaining on post-Soviet space–including the long-lasting Karabagh conflict," Putin announced. "However–we will do it only as an intermediary and guarantor of agreemen’s which are going to be reached by conflicting sides."

Meeting with Turkish businessmen in Moscow–Putin said that although the Karabagh conflict was not discussed specifically–general issues of relations between countries in the region were on the agenda. Both sides–he stated–expressed the desire to establish friendly relations among neighbors.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan again ruled out an unconditional reopening of his country’s border with Armenia–saying that official Yerevan should first take unspecified "positive" steps.

Putin–meanwhile–pledged to assist in the normalization of relations between the two historical foes.

"If we see positive approaches from Armenia’s government–we will open the border. But we don’t see such approaches now," Erdogan said at a joint news conference with Putin during an official visit to Moscow. He did not elaborate.

The Turkish premier’s stance contrasted with Putin’s positive assessment of the Armenian leadership’s efforts to improve relations with Turkey. Putin said Moscow is holding "constant consultations" with Ankara on the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties.

"Armenia is looking for ways of improving relations with Turkey," he said. "Russia will assist in this process as much as possible."

Putin was also pleased with the current state of Russian-Turkish relations–pointing in particular to the booming trade between the two nations seen as longtime geopolitical rivals. "Our most optimistic forecasts about economic cooperation have come true," he told Erdogan.

According to Putin–Russia and Turkey need to "continue developing an effective infrastructure of bilateral trade."

Erdogan–in his turn–promised to support Russia’s admission to the World Trade Organization. "Turkey is expected to demonstrate its full support for Russia’s membership in the WTO at a meeting of the working group on Russia’s admission to the WTO in Geneva on January 24," he said.

He highly commended the high level of trade and economic relations between the two countries. "We couldn’t even dream about this 10-15 years ago," Erdogan said.

Ways to broaden cooperation will be discussed by the Business Council on Wednesday–which will be attended by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Putin thanked the Turkish businessmen for their concrete proposals–assuring them that "all those proposals will be thoroughly studied by Russian experts and ministry officials."

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