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Karabakh Talks Stalled Again

Munich, May 6 (RFE/RL) - The international negotiators trying to arrange a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have again expressed their dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in the long-running negotiations among Azerbaijan, Armenia and the ethnic Armenian majority in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The eleven countries in the negotiating group issued a statement in Helsinki today. The statement noted that "the negotiations on a draft political agreement have been deadlocked for several months, and that the last few rounds of negotiations have produced no tangible results."

The statement said the co-chairmen of the negotiating group, Russia and Finland, have "expressed their displeasure with this situation" to both the United Nations Security Council and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has overall responsibility for the peace negotiations. The statement renewed their dissatisfaction.

The statement was issued after a meeting of the eleven members of the negotiating group in Helsinki over the weekend. They discussed how to mark next Sunday's (may 12) second anniversary of the 1994 ceasefire. They also considered various ideas for reviving the peace negotiations, which were suspended in March because of the stalemate.

The negotiating group welcomed a private meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and Heydar Aliyev, in Luxembourg April 21. The group said the communique issued after those talks was "a promising sign of the willingness of the parties to continue the negotiations in good faith in order to ensure the signature of the political agreement."

In the communique, Ter-Petrosyan and Aliyev confirmed their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and to the ceasefire. They said negotiations must continue in order to ensure the signing of the political agreement.

The presidential communique also expressed "a sense of urgency" for the resolution of humaniatrian issues, including the release of all remaining hostages and prisoners-of-war. The statement issued in Helsinki today said the eleven members of the negotiating group welcomed this. It added: "they assume the Luxembourg communique is a commitment to achieve the release by all parties of all hostages and prisoners-of-war on the occasion of the second anniversary of the ceasefire."

RFE/RL correspondent reports Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh have frequently told the International Red Cross and other organisation that they are ready to release the prisoners, but, in practise, progress has been very slow. The OSCE has said earlier the second anniversary of the ceasefire provided an ideal opportunity to honor the commitment fully.

An OSCE spokesman (anonymous) today told RFE/RL that the co-chairmen of the negotiating group, Russia and Finland, will send a mission to the region at the end of this month to discuss the situation with the leadership of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. After these discussions, the co-chairmen will decide whether there are sufficient grounds for resuming negotiations.