US and France Hail Medvedev Mediation on Karabagh


From left, Presidents Aliyev, Medvedev and Sargisian meet in Astrakhan.

ASTRAKHAN (RFE/RL) — Officials in Washington and Paris have welcomed the Russian leader’s latest effort on Karabagh to broker an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the exchange of prisoners of war and bodies of soldiers killed in recent clashes.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted the latest round of talks between Armenian President Serge Sargisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Astrakhan, southern Russia, on Wednesday. The meeting resulted in a joint declaration in which the sides agreed on the need for confidence- building measures, including a POWs and human remains swap “with the assistance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group co-chairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

At a press briefing in Washington on Thursday US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley welcomed the October 27 joint statement by the presidents as a “positive development.”

“We appreciate President [Dmitry] Medvedev’s personal efforts to reach this agreement, which aims to build confidence between the parties and to strengthen the 1994 ceasefire,” said Crowley. “This joint statement represents a positive development in the ongoing OSCE Minsk Group process to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict of Nagorno-Karabagh and we look forward to seeing its implementation as soon as possible.”

France, the other OSCE Minsk Group co-chair state, also welcomed the declaration signed through Moscow’s mediation.

“The measures set out in the resolution adopted in Astrakhan can help to reduce tension and violations of the ceasefire, which have become frequent in past months. Therefore, France expects them to be executed immediately,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Early reactions from Yerevan about the declaration were also mostly positive amid cautious optimism about the future of peace talks. Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian called the meeting in Astrakhan “useful and important” in a statement.

Internationally-mediated talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been ongoing since 1994 when an uneasy ceasefire brokered by Russia was signed between the warring parties in Karabagh to end nearly three years of hostilities. By that time some 30,000 people had been killed in the conflict and hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced.

Skirmishes along the line of contact between the Karabagh and Azerbaijani armed forces has intensified in recent months.