L'AQUILA, Italy (Reuters) -- The United States, France, and Russia have called on Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to resolve their differences and move towards a final accord on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are expected to meet in Russia on July 17 in talks that diplomats say could yield a breakthrough in talks on the 15-year-old conflict over the province of 150,000 people.
The West is concerned that any new fighting in the region could jeopardise oil and natural-gas supplies from Azerbaijani reserves in the Caspian Sea.
"We urge the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve the few differences remaining between them and finalize their agreement," U.S. President Barack Obama, France's Nicolas Sarkozy, and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev said in a joint statement.
The three countries -- who made the statement at the Group of Eight summit in Italy -- are co-chairs of the so-called Minsk Group, which is mandated to act as an intermedidary in the conflict.
Ethnic Armenian separatists, backed by Armenia, fought a war to throw off Azerbaijan's control over Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Separatists also seized areas of land around Nagorno-Karabakh.
An estimated 30,000 people were killed before a cease-fire took effect. The Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis have never signed a peace accord to end the conflict.