Rice Hopeful About Crucial Armenian Azeri Talks

(RFE/RL)–The United States underscored its hopes for a breakthrough in the Mountainous Karabagh peace process Thursday when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev to discuss his upcoming–crucial meeting with Armenian counterpart Kocharian.

In a statement cited by the Itar-Tass news agency–Aliyev’s office quoted Rice as telling the Azeri leader that she "attaches great importance" to the talks that are due to take place in the Russian city of Kazan on Saturday–and expressed hope that they would facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

US–Russian–and French diplomats spearheading the negotiating process signaled last month that the Kocharian-Aliyev meeting in Kazan could clear the final hurdle to peace. US Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky similarly noted on July 27 that their meeting "can potentially be a turning point."

Preparations for that meeting were discussed by the Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers in Moscow August 23-24. Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov sounded cautiously upbeat after their talks held in the presence of the mediating trio.

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