Armenia, Azerbaijan Hold More ‘Constructive’ Talks

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met on Friday in Moscow for the third time in as many months to again try to bridge the two countries’ differences over a framework peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh proposed by international mediators.

Reports from Moscow cited Eduard Nalbandian and Elmar Mammadyarov as saying that they are satisfied with the results of the talks and will meet again next month. But they stopped short of announcing a breakthrough in the long-running negotiation process.

A statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the talks focused on the basic principles of a Karabakh settlement that were formally put forward by the US, Russian and French mediators last November. It said they tried to "bring the parties’ positions on the remaining unresolved issues closer to each other."

"The meeting was useful, we agreed to continue negotiations, but we are still far from making a breakthrough," Mammadyarov said, as cited by Interfax news agency.

"The meeting was very constructive," the chief Russian negotiator, Yuri Merzlyakov, said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency. "Both ministers are satisfied."

But neither Merzlyakov, nor his American opposite number, Matthew Bryza, would be drawn on chances for the signing of the framework peace accord in the coming months. Bryza said only that the mediators have done a "good job" lately.

The mediators’ hopes to broker such a deal before the end of this year were all but dashed by the post-election turmoil in Armenia and a renewed exchange of hostile rhetoric between the conflicting parties. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and his newly elected Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, seem to have revived those hopes during their first face-to-face meeting in early June. They instructed their ministers to continue the difficult search for a mutually acceptable peace formula.

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