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Kerry hints at 'path forward' in Karabakh conflict

04 june 2013, 19:26
0
US Secretary of State John Kerry. ©AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry. ©AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted Monday at a possible way forward in another of the world's "frozen conflicts," saying Washington still aimed to help end the Nagorny-Karabakh dispute, AFP reports.

Meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, Kerry briefly refocused his peace-making ambitions away from the Middle East towards the disputed enclave run by Armenia-backed separatists.

"This is a frozen conflict, as we call it -- one that threatens the stability of the region and one that we need to deal with," Kerry said. "The last thing we want is a return to war and to conflict."

Armenia and Azerbaijan remain locked in a stand-off over the enclave, which ethnic Armenian forces seized during a war in the early 1990s that killed nearly 30,000 people and forced another million to flee their homes.

"I believe there is a path forward and we will continue to work quietly and patiently in an effort to try to encourage the parties to be able to take either confidence-building measures that may get you further down the road, or to find a way towards a settlement," the top US diplomat said.

He stressed that both sides "have been close before, and at the last minute things have happened that have denied everybody that opportunity."

Mammadyarov said that with Washington's help, Baku believed it could "successfully move forward" on many challenges "including one of the biggest problems, the resolution with the neighbor, Armenia, with whom we are definitely interested to live in peace, with dignity."

Speaking in English, the Azerbaijani minister said his country wanted to leave the "negative outcome of the conflict... in the past. And we'll look to the bright future of successful cooperation living next to each other as a good neighborhood."

But no final peace deal has been signed since a 1994 ceasefire, and flush with petrodollars, oil-rich Azerbaijan has threatened to take back the disputed region by force if negotiations do not yield results.

Armenia in turn has vowed massive retaliation against any military action.

Frequent clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops along their border and in Nagorny-Karabakh -- with 15 people reportedly killed last year from both sides -- highlight the risk of a fresh conflict between the arch-foes.

Kerry was also due to meet with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on Tuesday, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there was no new US initiative in the pipeline.

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