понедельник, 16 мая 2016 г.

U.S., Russia Push Armenia, Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh


By MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer
VIENNA (AP) — The United States, Russia and France are pressing the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to begin immediate negotiations on a settlement to their dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh following last month's outbreak of violence, the worst in 26 years.
Senior U.S. officials say Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault planned to bring the two presidents together in Vienna on Monday to urge them to recommit to a 1994 cease-fire, take steps to build confidence and resume stalled peace talks that have dragged on for two decades without visible result.

Among the measures they will recommend are an increase in monitors along the cease-fire line and the possible placement of cameras there to observe and document violations, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly preview the Vienna meeting, which is being convened by the U.S., Russia and France, co-chairs of the so-called "Minsk Group." That group, operating under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is seeking to mediate an end to the conflict.
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev both say they support a negotiated settlement to the dispute and last met together in December, but hostilities broke out in April. About 75 soldiers from both sides were killed, along with several civilians, before a Russian-brokered cease-fire stopped the worst of the fighting.
Yet fears loom of a possible escalation, with Turkey strongly backing Azerbaijan and Russia obliged to protect Armenia by a mutual security pact. Earlier this month, Armenia's government gave the go-ahead to legislation that calls for recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh. The government has blocked earlier similar proposals from the opposition but this time agreed to send it to parliament in what is seen as a warning to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has condemned the initiative, saying it is aimed at scuttling peace talks.
U.S. officials say they are concerned the recent violence may be the result of each side testing the other's defenses, something made more troubling by the introduction of heavy weapons in recent years. In previous skirmishes, casualties were mainly caused by sniper fire, but in the past year, both sides have introduced mortars, rocket launchers and artillery to the region, the officials said.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region in Azerbaijan with about 150,000 residents in an area of 12,000 square kilometers (4,400 square miles), has been under the control of local ethnic Armenian forces and the Armenian military since 1994. The conflict is fueled by long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and mostly Muslim Azeris and has been an economic blow to Armenia because Turkey has closed its border with Armenia, leaving the country with open borders only with Georgia and Iran.
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