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Azerbaijan, Armenia agree to discuss peace settlement: OSCE

20 november 2013, 18:04
0
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. ©Reuters/Nazik Armenakyan
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian. ©Reuters/Nazik Armenakyan
The presidents of arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed Tuesday to discuss a peace settlement over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh, the European security body OSCE said, AFP reports.

"The presidents agreed to advance negotiations toward a peaceful settlement... They agreed to meet again in the months ahead," the OSCE said in a statement after the two leaders met in Vienna.

Armenia's Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev met in the Austrian capital Tuesday for the first time in two years, hosted by the OSCE's so-called Minsk Group, which has been spearheading attempts to negotiate a solution to the conflict.

No details filtered out from the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers will now meet with the heads of the Group -- the ambassadors of Russia, France and the United States -- "to build on the work to date with the aim of intensifying the peace process," the OSCE said.

The United States said it welcomed Tuesday's meeting, and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with both presidents ahead of the talks.

"This summit is an important step toward restarting dialogue and demonstrates the leaders' shared commitment to bring an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Working sessions will be held on the sidelines of an OSCE conference in Kiev on December 5-6. The Minsk co-chairs are also to visit the region this year.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a festering decades-long feud over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh and frequently exchange sniper fire across the volatile frontline.

Armenia-backed separatists seized Nagorny Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a war that killed 30,000 people in the 1990s.

But despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have still not signed a peace deal.

The last meeting between Aliyev and Sarkisian took place in January 2012 in the Russian resort of Sochi.

Azerbaijan has threatened to take back the disputed region by force if negotiations do not yield results, while Armenia has vowed to retaliate against any military action.

The OSCE's current chairman, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, however saw a positive step with Tuesday's meeting.

"I trust that the highest-level dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan will contribute to strengthening confidence and mutual understanding between the parties and will provide a positive incentive for the negotiation process on the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict settlement," he said in a statement.

"Such negotiations serve as a warranty for peace, stability and opening new opportunities for regional co-operation," he added, pledging continued support for efforts to establish a "regular dialogue aimed at reaching a comprehensive peaceful settlement."

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