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French FM Says To Step Up Efforts To Solve Karabakh Conflict

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is on a tour of Soth Caucasus. (file photo)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is on a tour of Soth Caucasus. (file photo)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says his country plans to intensify efforts to find a solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

"We hope that in the coming months we will work more actively to search for the ways of settling the Karabakh conflict," Le Drian said on May 27 during a joint news conference with his Azerbaijani counterpart in Baku.

He said the current situation was "not an option" and added that "France seeks peace and stability in the region."

Azerbaijan's foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, told reporters that he and Le Drian held substantive discussions on the issue.

"We adhere to the strategy of resolving the conflict peacefully, and I am sure that France as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group will continue to help resolve this situation," Mammadyarov said.

Le Drian is on a tour of the South Caucasus and is scheduled to hold talks in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, on May 28.

Bridget Brink, the U.S.deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, was scheduled to be in Yerevan on May 27, although it was not immediately known how long she would stay in the Armenian capital or if talks would involve the disputed region.

Yerevan has long insisted that any talks on solving the dispute include the ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, something Baku has opposed.

In a statement marking Azerbaijan’s National Day on May 28, the U.S. State Department said it remained "committed to finding a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and urge the parties to resume intensive negotiations as soon as possible."

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan during a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

A cease-fire was called in 1994, but decades of internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE's Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

Le Drian also met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, with Aliyev's press service saying that along with the Karabakh issue, energy cooperation between Paris and Baku was discussed.

Aliyev is scheduled to visit Paris in July, and Le Drian said French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Azerbaijan by the end of the year, although he did not provide details.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Interfax, France Diplomatie, and Azeri News
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