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Medvedev Says Karabakh Peace 'Still Possible'

A trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in March 2011

A trilateral meeting of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in March 2011

YEREVAN -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh could still be resolved in the near future despite the current impasse in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

"In the last several years, a lot has been done to bring the parties' positions closer to one another," Medvedev told Azerbaijani state television in an interview broadcast on December 25. "There are definitely prospects for reaching an agreement."

"In my view, this is perhaps the only conflict in the post-Soviet space that can be settled at the moment," he said. "Everything depends on the goodwill of the parties, on their ability to listen to each other's arguments; and, let's face it, there are no simple decisions. An agreement can be reached only on the basis of compromise."

Medvedev has involved himself personally in the Karabakh peace process, organizing about a dozen trilateral meetings with the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the past three years.

The two sides reportedly came close to agreeing on the basic principles of a peaceful settlement proposed by Russia, the United States, and France at the most recent Armenian-Azerbaijani summit held in the Russian city of Kazan in June. They failed to overcome their differences, however, raising more questions about the future of the peace talks.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev said through their foreign ministers earlier this month that they are ready to meet again "in the near future." But there are still no concrete plans for such a meeting.

Medvedev will step down after a presidential election in March.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on December 26 that Moscow will continue to make "active efforts" for peace in Karabakh.

"Support for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and crises has traditionally been among our foreign policy priorities," he told Interfax.

Sergei Minasian, a senior analyst at the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute, suggested that Moscow's chief concern is to prevent another Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

"If hostilities resume Russia will have to make a very difficult choice: either to help its strategic ally and fellow CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) member Armenia...and lose Azerbaijan, or not to help Armenia," he told RFE/RL.

"In the latter case, Russia will lose Armenia because the Russian military presence on its territory makes sense to Armenia only if the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not resolved," Minasian added. "And in the case of losing Armenia, Russia will eventually lose Azerbaijan as well."

Arman Melikian, a former self-declared "foreign minister" of Nagorno-Karabakh who is now based in Yerevan, claimed that the Russians are ready to impose an "unacceptable" peace deal on the Armenian side if Azerbaijan agrees to give them greater control over exports of Azerbaijani oil and gas.

Melikian, who opposes the Russian-proposed basic principles to resolve the crisis, said that even if Baku agrees to the Russian terms they will be rejected by the Karabakh Armenians and public opinion in Armenia.

"Given this [set of circumstances], Russia will fail to sit on two chairs simultaneously," he said.

Read more in Armenian here

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