Accessibility links

Breaking News

Nagorno-Karabakh Talks Set For Next Week

YEREVAN (Reuters) -- The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet next week, and possibly again in June, to discuss the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, mediators have said.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Armenia's Serzh Sarkisian will meet in Prague on May 7, envoys of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said. They said they also hoped to organize a meeting in early June in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

"We hope that the meeting [in Prague] will be very constructive," French envoy Bernard Fassier told a news conference in Yerevan at the end of a visit to the region with his Russian and U.S. colleagues.

Ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Armenia, fought a war in the 1990s to throw off Azerbaijan's control of the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. An estimated 30,000 people were killed. A fragile cease-fire is in force but a peace accord has
never been signed.

There has been an increase in diplomatic activity since last year's war in neighboring Georgia, when Russia repelled a Georgian assault on the rebel pro-Russian region of South Ossetia.

However, there is uncertainty over how a thaw in relations between Armenia and Azeri ally Turkey might affect efforts to resolve the conflict.

Oil-producing Azerbaijan has reacted angrily to plans by Ankara and Yerevan to establish diplomatic relations and open their border, which Turkey closed in 1993 in solidarity with fellow Muslim Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Despite the announcement last week of a Turkish-Armenian road map to normalise relations, some in the Turkish leadership have said ties with Armenia will only follow progress on Nagorno-Karabakh.

U.S. envoy Matthew Bryza said he expected developments between Turkey and Armenia to help the mediation efforts. "We believe that these two processes will develop separately, in parallel with one another, perhaps at different paces," he said.