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U.S. Official Warns Against 'Dangerous' Use Of Religion Card In Karabakh Talks

OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmen Bernard Fassier, Matthew Bryza, and Yury Merzlyakov (left to right) after the Prague meeting on May 7
PRAGUE -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Matthew Bryza has dismissed an Azerbaijani presidential aide's suggestion that Washington was playing favorites in talks to resolve the longstanding dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Bryza, one of three co-chairmen of the OSCE's Minsk group, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that "religion has nothing to do with our mediation effort and, frankly, I think, anyone who tries to import religion into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is playing a very dangerous game."

Bryza was responding to remarks by the head of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's foreign affairs department, Novruz Mammedov, in which Mamedov criticized the Minsk co-chairmen and said they were openly supporting Armenia in a recent meeting.

Mammedov accused mediators of demonstrating "Christian solidarity."

Bryza repeated his assertion that "significant progress" was achieved during a "very positive" May 7 meeting, which brought together Azerbaijan's Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Minsk group mediators.