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Nagorno-Karabakh President Expresses Optimism --> President Ghukasian (2002 file photo) (epa) 25 October 2005 -- The president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkadii Ghukasian, told RFE/RL's Armenian Service today that he feels optimistic 2006 could see progress toward a negotiated settlement of the Karabakh problem.

Ghukasian called it a "suitable year" in part because there are no elections scheduled next year "in Karabakh, Armenia, Azerbaijan, [or] Russia."

He also said international mediators seem eager to speed up the process.

Ghukasian said Azerbaijan appears more willing to discuss the issue.

"Of course, I consider it positive that today Azerbaijan speaks about the status of Karabakh and does not avoid discussions," Ghukasian told RFE/RL. "If you remember, in the past, Azerbaijan spoke only about issues of particular interest to them. Today, one can assume that Azerbaijan is perhaps ready to work in a more constructive manner."

Armenian President Robert Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev discussed the conflict in late August following a CIS summit in Kazan.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic Armenian enclave, broke away from Soviet Azerbaijan in 1988, sparking a war in which some 35,000 people were killed. A cease-fire took effect in 1994.