Mediators again Visit Karabagh Amid More Deadly Fighting

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — International mediators have toured the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict zone amid continuing deadly skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces that left two Azerbaijani soldiers dead at the weekend.

The US, Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group held talks in Yerevan on Friday, proceeded to Karabagh on Saturday and were due to arrive in Baku on Monday.

Official sources in Armenia gave few details of their meetings with President Serge Sargisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian. In a statement, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said they discussed ways of implementing understandings reached by Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents at their last meeting hosted by their Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Sochiinlate January. counter to the agreements reached at Sochi.” It did not elaborate.

Sargisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pledged to “accelerate the achieve- ment of an agreement on the Basic Principles” of a Karabagh settlement put forward by the Minsk Group co-chairs. They said they also told the mediators to continue working with the conflicting parties on a mechanism for jointly investigating cease- fire violations along the “line of contact” around Karabagh and the Armenian- Azerbaijani border.

The statement quoted Nalbandian as complaining about recent statements by Azerbaijani leaders which he said “run issued in the southern Russian city,

In a joint statement with Medvedev The mediators discussed the issue with Karabagh President Bako Sahakian in Stepanakert on Saturday. But they gave no details of that discussion.

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“We also discussed the situation on the Line of Contact,” Robert Bradtke, the US co-chair, told reporters in the Karabagh capital.

Later on Saturday the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that two of its soldiers were shot dead overnight at the westernmost section of Azerbaijan’s long border with Armenia. It said Azerbaijani troops stationed there came under intense automatic gunfire from Armenian army positions.

The Armenian Defense Ministry blamed the Azerbaijani side for the incident. “The ceasefire regime is always violated by the Azerbaijani side,” the Regnum news agency quoted ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian as saying.

Azerbaijani news agencies reported that another Azerbaijani soldier was gravely wound- ed early after a truck driven by him hit a land- mine at a frontline section northeast of Karabagh on Monday.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani truce violations appear to have been the main focus of the mediators’ activities in recent months, reflecting their concerns about the possible resumption of large-scale hostilities and the parties’ lingering differences on the basic principles of Karabagh peace.

Aliyev and Sargisian reportedly came close to overcoming those differences when they met in another Russian city, Kazan, last June. Prospects for a near-term solution to the Karabagh conflict have dimmed since then. Forthcoming elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan are widely seen as another impediment to a breakthrough in the protracted peace process.

Bradtke insisted in Stepanakert, though, that the difficult search for a mutually acceptable peace deal will continue despite the elections.

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