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International Mediators Visit Karabakh After Truce Monitoring

STEPANAKERT -- A team of international mediators has met with ethnic Armenian leaders in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

U.S., Russian, and French mediators with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group were in Karabakh on September 8 on the second leg of a tour of the conflict zone.

They crossed into the disputed territory's northern Martakert district from Azerbaijan proper through the heavily militarized "line of contact" separating the warring sides at a point where deadly fighting took place last week.

The mediators also attended a monitoring of the cease-fire conducted by OSCE field officers.

The Foreign Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) said in a statement that "no cease-fire violations were registered" during the monitoring.

At least four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in that area in two separate incidents reported last week. Each side blamed the other for the truce violations.

The mediators condemned the incidents and called for "additional actions necessary to strengthen the cease-fire" as they began their fresh round of regional shuttle diplomacy in Baku on September 6. They made no public statements the following day after meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The mediating troika was just as reticent after holding talks with self-styled Karabakh President Bako Sahakian the next day. "I cannot share our impressions with you because...we are only in the middle of our mission," Bernard Fassier, the Minsk Group's French co-chair, told journalists in Stepanakert.

Fassier said he, U.S. envoy Robert Bradtke, and Russian mediator Igor Popov are scheduled to meet with President Serzh Sarkisian in the Armenian capital today.

In their last statement released on Monday, the co-chairs pledged to step up their efforts to broker a solution to the Karabakh conflict. They said they will remain "particularly active" in the months leading up to the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, scheduled for December.

Sahakian's office said the Karabakh leader discussed with the visiting diplomats "a broad range of issues" relating to the peace process. "Both sides pointed out that the military option of resolving the conflict is absolutely unacceptable," the office said in a statement.