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Armenia, Azerbaijan Sign Joint Declaration Over Nagorno-Karabakh


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (center) met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (left) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian outside Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (center) met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (left) and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian outside Moscow.

MEIENDORF CASTLE, Russia (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijan and Armenia have called for a peaceful resolution of their long-standing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

The two countries' presidents issued a joint declaration following Russia-mediated talks in Moscow, the first document to be signed by the two countries on the issue in almost 15 years.

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In the resolution, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, pledged to intensify negotiations to end the dispute.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku's control in a war in the early 1990s.

The talks were mediated by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country -- together with France and the United States -- co-chairs the Minsk Group, created by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) to broker a peace deal.

'Activate Negotiation Process'

Medvedev read a joint declaration during a signing ceremony after the talks.

"The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia decided to continue their work -- including at further high-profile talks -- to agree on a political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Medvedev said. "They instructed their foreign ministers to activate the negotiation process, in collaboration with the co-chairs of the OSCE's Minsk Group."

The declaration, although merely reiterating previous positions, is still a breakthrough. It is the first official document signed by Yerevan and Baku on the issue since the 1994 truce that ended the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

The presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia last met to discuss a peace plan just over four years ago in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

The meeting, which was held on the fringes of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit, had failed to jumpstart the peace process. Subsequent diplomatic efforts to solve the dispute also proved fruitless, including June talks between Aliyev and Sarkisian

Breakthrough 'Possible'

The region has drawn increased diplomatic interest since Russia and Georgia went to war in August over another frozen conflict area, Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia.

During a visit to Yerevan on October 17, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said a breakthrough on Nagorno-Karabakh was "possible" by year's end.

The war there claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and forced about 1 million people from their homes, most of whom are still unable to return. The two sides are still technically at war because no peace treaty has been signed and crossborder skirmishes are still common.

The talks outside Moscow, which were proposed last month by Medvedev, are widely viewed as a renewed Kremlin effort to consolidate its influence in the energy-rich Caspian after its brief war with Georgia raised tensions throughout the region.

RFE/RL's Armenian Service contributed to this report.
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