Hopeful Signs on Karabagh Emerge after Moscow Meeting

MOSCOW (AP/Itar-Tass)–The foreign ministers of Russia–Armenia–and Azerbaijan said on Wednesday that they saw hopeful signs recently in the drive to find a settlement to the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

Armenian foreign minister Vartan Oskanian stressed that the self-determination of Mountainous Karabagh is a priority in settling the conflict–which should focus on the rights of its population to take care of their fate. "Other problems are to cope with the consequences of the conflict–settle territorial claims–and return refugees," and added that there is hope the sides would find common denominators. "It would bring peace and stability to southern Caucasus."

"The settlement requires active work," Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said–adding that it is premature to talk about any headway in resolving the conflict.

The three ministers met in Moscow on Wednesday–along with representatives of the United States–France–and Russia–who are mediating negotiations on settling the conflict. They also discussed arrangemen’s for a meeting Saturday between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of a summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Russia’s Volga River city of Kazan.

Russia’s mediator Yuri Merzlyakov said that Russia "holds a clear position on this issue."

"We believe that one should not impose his solution of the problem on the parties to the conflict; they should arrive at it independently–without outside interference," Merzlyakov said. "If a mutually acceptable accord is reached–we’ll be able to guarantee it. The settlement should make all the parties involved feel safer–the balance of forces that historically developed in the region should not be upset–while the region itself should not become an arena of rivalry," he added.

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