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By Emil Danielyan

Senior French, Russian and US negotiators seeking to broker an agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh will meet next week in Malta to discuss “new complications” impeding further progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Friday. This will be their first encounter since the postponement of an important Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Geneva this month.


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Citing unnamed diplomatic sources in Moscow, Interfax said the meeting on the Mediterranean island is scheduled for June 22-24. The sources said the three co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group will consider "further steps to be taken for continuing the Karabakh settlement,” including confidence-building measures along the line of contact east and north of the disputed region.

The Russian delegation will be led by first Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov. He on Friday discussed the Karabakh issue in Moscow with his French counterpart, Ambassador Philippe de Suremain. The two men “confirmed their readiness to continue to give full support to the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia
in their efforts to find a speedy solution to the Karabakh tangle," according to the Russian foreign ministry.

The co-chairs are expected to map out a new course of action in order to build upon major progress made by the conflicting parties since the beginning of the year. Western diplomats in Yerevan say the mediators still hope that a comprehensive agreement to resolve the Karabakh conflict will be reached this year.

The Karabakh peace process was due to be on the agenda of Saturday’s meeting in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana between US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush’s top national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said earlier that Karabakh is one of the areas of active Russian-American cooperation.

Moscow has been worried about growing Western influence in the south Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and many observers have cast doubt on the sincerity of its efforts to resolve regional conflicts. The mediators, however, deny the existence of serious differences between the US and France on one side and Russia on the other. One Western diplomat described activities of the Minsk Group troika as “one of the real success stories of cooperative diplomacy in the post-Cold War era.”
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