Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, with President Serzh Sargsyan

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Visits Armenia, Azerbaijan


YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — During a visit to Armenia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there is no cause for “too much optimism” over a resolution of the long-standing conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Together with our American and French colleagues we will now analyze where we are right now, we will try to take some sort of active steps to create conditions to achieve a settlement,” Lavrov said in Yerevan on November 21.

“I wouldn’t be too optimistic, it’s a challenging task, and our experience of negotiations makes us think they will not end quickly,” he told a joint press conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Armenian Genocide Monument

Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

Speaking alongside Lavrov, Nalbandian said that Armenia was “willing to continue” negotiations to try resolve the conflict.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Russia and the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance and was productive in terms of strengthening bilateral relations, Armenian leader said.

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“Relations are characterized as genuinely allied. I fully share this opinion, because these relations are distinguished by a high level of political dialogue at all levels, broad coordination of foreign policy activities, fruitful cooperation on international platforms, very good interaction in the economic, military and technical and humanitarian spheres,” Sargsyan said.

He stressed the importance of active reciprocal visits during which during the past few months Armenia was visited by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, the ministers of industry education, health, and these days the visit of the foreign minister.

Noting that the Armenian-Russian relations are developing consistently, the President stressed that further work should continue in the direction of developing interstate relations, strengthening the friendship of the Armenian and Russian peoples.

Lavrov expressed gratitude for the reception and conveyed to Sargsyan the warm greetings of Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the meeting, the Minister presented the results of the talks with his colleague and the discussions that took place during his official visit.

In a message read out at the opening ceremony of an historic exhibition in Yerevan on “friendship” between Russia and Armenia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia and Armenia “are not just good neighbors,” according to Russian news agencies.

“We are bonded with shared history, pride in the feats of our ancestors, and traditions of friendship and mutual understanding that we cherish,” he said.

Lavrov flew in to Armenia from Azerbaijan on November 20 as part of a regional tour timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the two ex-Soviet republics, which have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for even longer.

In Baku, where he met with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and President Ilham Aliyev, Lavrov said that friendly diplomatic relations between the two countries played “a great role in providing security” in the South Caucasus and Caspian regions.

During his meeting with Lavrov on November 19, Aliyev hailed the “high level“ of bilateral ties between Azerbaijan and Russia and voiced confidence that cooperation will strengthen in the future.

He also said that his country was “very interested” in resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Being one of the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, we will continue looking for mutually acceptable ways of peaceful settlement with regard to the developments that emerged during the recent meeting of the three co-chairmen — Russian, American and French — with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Moscow,” Lavrov added.

Lavrov also said that the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh includes all the countries that can contribute to the settlement of the conflict, so, there is no need to extend its format.

“We have an agreed format. There are three co-chairs (Russian, US, and French). They do not exist in vacuum; they are co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group where all the countries concerned that can have any influence on that process are present.”

The Russian top diplomat confessed he had heard the idea of extending this format from journalists only as this topic had never been raised.

“I think that in this situation, like in many other conflict situations, any new initiatives may be used, intentionally or not, as tools to spoil what is already being done in the format that has already proved its worth for both parties,” Lavrov stressed.

(Stories from RFE/RL, Arka and were used to compile this report.)

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