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Armenia, Azerbaijan Closer To Resolution, Lavrov Says

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (center) with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Serzh Sarkisian (left) and Ilham Aliyev, in Chisinau on October 9.
CHISINAU (Reuters) -- Azerbaijan and Armenia have moved closer toward resolving a two-decade dispute over the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

The presidents of the two Caucuses nations held constructive talks on October 8 about the region, the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau said after hosting the meeting.

A breakthrough in the conflict, in which Christian Armenians control the area that is within Muslim Azerbaijan's recognized borders, would smooth the way for the restoration of ties between Armenia and Turkey after a century of hostility.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's Serzh Sarkisian during a summit on October 9 of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of most former Soviet republics.

"Solving Nagorno-Karabakh is a key issue. Advances are being made step by step and with every meeting the positions move closer," Lavrov told reporters when asked about Medvedev's meeting with the two leaders.

Armenia and Turkey, an ally of Azerbaijan, are due to meet in Zurich on October 10 to sign an accord that would pave the way for normal relations that have been bitter since the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces during World War I.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to attend the Zurich signing ceremony.

Turkish officials say to move forward on this, Armenia and Azerbaijan must make progress on the disputed region.

Ethnic Armenians in the region fought for several years against Azeris at the end of the 1980s on the eve of the Soviet Union's disintegration. Some 30,000 people were killed. Turkey shut its borders to Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan.