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New Russian Negotiator Visits Armenia, Karabakh

Igor Popov, the new Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group
Igor Popov, the new Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group
YEREVAN -- Russia's new top negotiator on issues surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh visited the capital of the self-proclaimed republic today, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Igor Popov, the newly appointed Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, was in Stepanakert to meet Bako Sahakian, the president of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. "I am in a mood to make every effort to have the conflict resolved as soon as possible," he told journalists afterwards.

The Russian diplomat said his meeting with the Karabakh Armenian leader focused on "socioeconomic problems" facing the disputed region. He said they also discussed the ongoing reconstruction of Stepanakert airport.

On April 28, Popov met Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan.

Sarkisian's office gave few details of the talks, saying the two discussed "recent developments" in the Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiating process.

Popov paid his first visit to Karabakh and Armenia in his new capacity one week after accompanying the Minsk Group's outgoing Russian co-chair, Yuri Merzlyakov, on a trip to Azerbaijan. The two diplomats were joined there by the U.S. co-chair to the Minsk Group, Robert Bradtke, and received by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

In a subsequent joint statement also signed by the group's French co-chair,
Bernard Fassier, the mediators spoke of "a new impetus to the advancement of a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the Madrid principles."

They said they will meet in Vienna early next month to brief the Minsk Group on the current status of the Karabakh peace process.

Reports in Azerbaijani media said the mediators are pressing for yet another meeting between Aliyev and Sarkisian. The two presidents plan to fly to Moscow on May 8 to attend events marking the 65th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.

Nagorno-Karabakh and much of the adjoining territory has been under the control of Armenian forces since a war with Azerbaijan that ended in 1994.