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U.S., Russian Mediators Visit Nagorno-Karabakh

Igor Popov (left) and Robert Bradtke, the Russian and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, after talks with Karabakh Armenian leaders in Stepanakert on July 2.
STEPANAKERT -- Senior U.S. and Russian envoys visited Nagorno-Karabakh and met with its ethnic Armenian leaders on July 2 at the start of a fresh regional tour aimed at facilitating a breakthrough in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Robert Bradtke and Igor Popov will be joined by the third co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Bernard Fassier of France, to hold similar talks in Yerevan and Baku this weekend in preparation for a potentially key meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.

The two ministers are due to meet -- probably in the presence of top diplomats from the United States, Russia, and France -- on the margins of the OSCE's July 16-17 ministerial conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Bradtke and Popov met Bako Sahakian, the leader of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and General Movses Hakobian, the commander of the Karabakh Armenian army.

According to Popov, the two envoys discussed with Sahakian issues that had been raised by the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents at their last meeting, hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg on June 18. He did not give any details.

Some senior pro-government parliament deputies in Yerevan said this week that Medvedev presented the two parties with new proposals aimed at pushing the peace process further forward. They said Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian reacted to them positively, unlike Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliyev.

The Armenian government has not confirmed the claims.

Popov said he and his American counterpart also discussed a recent deadly firefight between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces with the Karabakh leaders.

The co-chairs' latest round of regional shuttle diplomacy began ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's weekend visits to Baku and Yerevan. U.S. officials have said the Karabakh conflict will be high on her agenda.