WASHINGTON (News.am)–The United States on Friday welcomed an agreement reached between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this week regarding the exchange of prisoners of war and the bodies of people killed as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley told a press briefing.
The agreement came during talks Wednesday between Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev that were hosted by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan.
The meeting resulted in a declaration in which the sides agreed on the need for confidence-building measures, including an exchange of prisoners of war and human remains “with the assistance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).”
“This joint statement represents a positive development in the ongoing OSCE Minsk Group process to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and we look forward to seeing its implementation as soon as possible,” Crowley said. “We appreciate President Medvedev’s personal efforts to reach this agreement, which aims to build confidence between the parties and to strengthen the 1994 ceasefire.”
Russia co-heads the OSCE Minsk Group together with the United States and France. In the past two years, the Russian president has met the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan several times. The last time Medvedev hosted a meeting between Sarkisian and Aliyev was on June 17 and within just over 24 hours after that meeting a major ceasefire violation occurred on the line of contact between the Azerbaijani and Karabakh-Armenian armed forces, with four Armenian and one Azerbaijani soldiers reportedly killed in the firefight.
Echoing counterparts in Washington, the Kremlin Friday similarly welcomed the recent round of Karabakh talks as a positive turning point in the peace process. “The Russian President knows that his initiative doesn’t promise any dividends but is resolved to continue working activity for resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” a Kremlin source was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. “It’s senseless to expect significant progress from each meeting. The most important thing is stability of the South Caucasus.”