US Envoy Steven Mann Meets with Armenian Leaders

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Steven Mann–Washington’s chief Karabagh negotiator–met with Armenian leaders Thursday to discuss the Karabagh peace process on yet another visit to Yerevan.

During their meeting–Mann and Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian discussed "prospects for continuing negotiations" aimed at resolving the Karabagh conflict. Mann also met President Robert Kocharian later in the day.

Mann will be in Baku on Friday to meet with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev about the latter’s upcoming visit to Washington during which he will be received by President George W. Bush.

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs–including Mann–have said that the flurry of diplomatic activity is aimed at arranging another meeting between the presidents of the two South Caucasus nations. French co-chair Bernard Fassier said they hope that Aliyev and Kocharian will meet in June or July at the latest.

The planned Aliyev-Kocharian meeting may take place ahead of the Group of Eight summit in the Russian city of St. Petersburg scheduled for July. The United States–France–and Russia–which is chairing G8 for the first time this year–are all members of the group of rich nations.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said late Wednesday that Washington wants the conflicts in Karabagh and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union to be included on the summit agenda. "On the agenda we suggested today–for the first time–should be these…issues pertaining to conflicts very close to Russia’s borders," Burns told a news briefing during a visit to Moscow.

The formal G8 agenda proposed by Russia does not include a specific mention of the ex-Soviet conflicts.

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