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Karabakh Armenians Expect No Progress From Peace Talks

YEREVAN -- The ethnic Armenian leadership of the Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh has downplayed expectations from talks expected between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in New York this week, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Robert Bradtke, the U.S. co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, said last week that Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss "new ideas" proposed by the American, French, and Russian mediators of the Minsk Group.

Bradtke said the mediators expect "some progress" at the talks.

"We expect constructive steps from the sides in terms of advancing the peace process," he told the BBC.

But Davit Babayan, a spokesman for Nagorno-Karabakh's self-styled President Bako Sahakian, sounded pessimistic about the New York meeting.

"Such meetings are important for maintaining the negotiating process, but we don't expect any breakthrough, any serious progress," Babayan told RFE/RL from Stepanakert, the region's capital. "What is happening in Azerbaijan gives us no reason to expect any constructive steps from Azerbaijan."

Babayan also said that the Karabakh Armenians have still not formally agreed to a fact-finding trip to Armenian-controlled territories around the disputed enclave planned by the OSCE mediators. He said the mediators should also inspect areas of Karabakh that are controlled by Azerbaijani forces.

"That could be done simultaneously or next year," Babyan said. "But if [the trip to Azerbaijani-controlled regions] doesn't happen, that mission will become meaningless. Having said that, we are not afraid of such missions. Let them come and see that these territories are an inseparable part of [Nagorno-Karabakh] and will remain as such."

The basic principles of a Karabakh settlement proposed by the Minsk Group call for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all districts in Azerbaijan proper that were occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1993.