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Karabakh Leadership Skeptical About Armenian-Azerbaijani Summit

STEPANAKERT -- The Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh says today's meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents will not help find a resolution for the disputed region, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Davit Babayan, a spokesman for the unrecognized president of Nagorno-Karabakh, Bako Sahakian, told RFE/RL today that a solution to the conflict will remain elusive as long as Karabakh's ethnic Armenian leadership is excluded from direct Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations.

"Russia is showing the international community that it is able to take the initiative in the Caucasus," Babayan told RFE/RL from Stepanakert, commenting on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting today with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in St. Petersburg.

But he added that Russia cannot single-handedly broker a peaceful settlement.

"In order to have a breakthrough here, there has to be a restoration of the proper negotiating format -- Armenia, Karabakh, and Azerbaijan -- and the involvement of other mediating sides, notably the United States and France," he said. "As long as these preconditions are not in place, I don't think there will be any breakthrough."

Despite regular visits to Stepanakert by the U.S., French, and Russian co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) has not been directly involved in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks for more than a decade.

Azerbaijan refuses any direct contact with Karabakh Armenian officials, saying the conflict is between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The mediators have repeatedly assured the authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert that Karabakh Armenian authorities will play a major role at a later stage in the peace process.

The meeting by Aliev and Sarkisian is the first Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in nearly five months.