Russia’s Medvedev Pushes Nagorno-Karabagh Talks

YEREVAN (Reuters) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, projecting Moscow’s diplomatic clout in the Caucasus, pushed on Tuesday, during a visit here, to bring the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan together for talks on Nagorno-Karabagh.

Armenian President Serge Sargisian and Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev last met on the issue in early June, but the war in Georgia in August appears to have lent fresh impetus to diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.

The war in Georgia erupted when Moscow sent troops to crush a bid by Georgian troops to take control over South Ossetia, another “frozen conflict” arising from the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Visiting staunch ally Armenia, Medvedev said the war in Georgia had shown the need to resolve disputes “on the basis of international principles and by negotiations.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have never signed a peace treaty, and Azerbaijan has not ruled out using force to restore its control over Nagorno-Karabagh.

“I hope we are in an advanced stage now,” Medvedev said after talks with Sargisian.

“Both sides are ready to seek solutions,” he said, adding that he hoped to meet together with Sargisian and Aliyev “in the very near future.”

“I hope such a meeting will take place in Russia.”

Azeri ally and NATO member Turkey had taken the diplomatic lead in the wake of the August war. Medvedev’s initative will be seen as a response, in a region where Russia and the West are vying for influence over vital energy transit routes from Central Asia to Western markets.

Diplomats say that, without Russia, little headway can be made on the “frozen conflicts.”

Russia’s war with Georgia deepened concern in the West over the reliability of the Caucasus energy corridor.

Armenia is considered Russia’s strongest ally in the region, but is also being courted by the United States.

Yerevan is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme, and hosted alliance exercises over the past three weeks.

While in Yerevan, Medvedev and Sargisian attended a ceremony in which a square in Yerevan was named Russian Square. The square is situated between the buildings of the Mayor’s office and the city’s Museum and the House of Moscow, a cultural and business center.

In addition, Medvedev laid a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial. He also attended the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute and planted a fir on the Memory Alley, next to the firs planted by Vladimir Putin, Pope John Paul II and Baroness Caroline Cox.

(Itar-Tass contributed to this report.)