G8 Leaders Urge Armenia Azerbaijan to Cut Karabakh Deal

ST. PETERSBURG (RFE/RL)–The leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) wealthiest nations on Monday threw their weight behind international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to cut a framework peace deal this year.

"We call on Armenia and Azerbaijan to demonstrate the political will–reach agreement and prepare their publics for peace and not for war," they said in a joint statement issued at the end of their two-day meeting in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

The statement–as cited by the Russian Itar-Tass news agency–said the Karabakh conflict was on the agenda of the G8 summit. "We confirmed that the Group of Eight supports the mediation efforts of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and stressed the need for agreeing on the basic principles of a peaceful settlement of the conflict as early as in 2006," it said.

However–the unresolved Karabakh dispute appears to have been overshadowed by other–more pressing international issues. Reports from Saint Petersburg indicated that the G8 leaders concentrated on mounting tensions in the Middle East–Iran’s nuclear program–North Korea’s missile tests and global trade.

Three of the G8 powers — France–Russia and the United States — have spearheaded international efforts to end the Karabakh conflict over the past decade–and are believed to have been very close to fulfilling their mission at the beginning of this year. However–two rounds of subsequent negotiations between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan proved fruitless–all but ending hopes for the signing of a Karabakh peace accord by the end of 2006.

Armenian and Azeri media reports last month said the mediating powers might invite Presidents Robert Kocharian and Ilham Aliyev to the G8 summit in yet another attempt to break the Karabakh deadlock. But both leaders made it clear last week that they see no need for such an encounter.

The American–French and Russian mediators–for their part–stated earlier this month that further Armenian-Azeri peace talks will be pointless unless Aliyev and Kocharian display enough commitment to mutual compromise. The move suggested that both Russia and the West are unlikely to step up pressure on the conflicting parties.

Speaking in Saint Petersburg on Sunday–Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will not seek to impose any solutions on either party. "We would like Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a mutually acceptable solution," he said–according to the Regnum news agency. "I can confirm our position: Russia will not be imposing a solution neither on Armenia–nor on Azerbaijan. Compromise has to be reached by the peoples of these countries."

The Minsk Group’s US co-chair–Matthew Bryza–likewise told RFE/RL on June 27 that Washington has no intention to "force people to agree."You can’t have a just and lasting settlement if it’s just strong US leverage forcing an agreement," said Bryza. "The sides have to decide that they’ve reached an agreement that they truly can embrace."


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