Belgian FM Hopes for Karabagh Deal in 2006

BRUSSELS (AP)–Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht said Wednesday resolving deadlocked conflicts would be a priority for his country’s presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)–adding that he would travel to Azerbaijan and Armenia later this month to join peace talks.

De Gucht told reporters that he hoped to ensure an agreement between the two nations was reached this year–which could lead to an OSCE observer mission being sent to the area.

He is to travel to the two countries January 24 to get both sides to agree on new top level talks for February 9 on resolving the conflict over Karabagh.

"We are determined to build on progress being achieved… I am going to try to facilitate their meeting," he said–adding that elections in the two nations have led to an easing of tensions. "We have a better opportunity now."

Belgium took over the yearlong presidency of Europe’s top security organization January 1 from Slovenia and as such is now deeply involved in trying to resolve the conflict.

Armenia’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that foreign ministers from Azerbaijan and Armenia would meet in London next week for additional talks. International mediators said last month that they have a series of promising new proposals to resolve the dispute–but have so far refused to reveal details.

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