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By Harry Tamrazian in Prague

After two-day consultations held in Malta over the weekend, the US, French and Russian diplomats leading the OSCE’s Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh announced that they will again visit the zone of conflict next month to try to push forward the stalled peace process. The joint tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh will take place “in the first half of July,” they said.

In a joint statement issued on Saturday, the co-chairs said they have thoroughly examined the current situation and exchanged opinions on ways of building upon progress made by the conflicting parties during talks in Paris and Florida earlier this year.

The three co-chairs -- Carey Cavanaugh of the United States, France’s Philippe de Suremain and Russian first Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov -- said they agreed to take several joint steps “in the near future.” According to the statement, the mediators will meet with the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, in Bucharest in the coming days to brief him on the current state of the peace process.

The Malta meeting was the first face-to-face session by the mediating troika since the postponement of crucial Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks initially scheduled for this month in Geneva. Diplomats say the parties needed more time to prepare their publics for a compromise deal.

The co-chairs reiterated that Washington, Paris and Moscow continue to closely cooperate on Karabakh at the highest level, and will keep up the “close coordination of efforts aimed at the speedy resolution of the Karabakh conflict and the restoration of peace and stability in the South Caucasus.”

The US, French and Russian diplomats also urged the parties to avoid any action that could complicate the situation in the region and show restraint in what they described as a “crucial period.”

In a letter sent to Minsk Group co-chairs late last week, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Naira Melkumian, complained that the public calls by some Azerbaijani officials for a forcible solution to the conflict could undermine the peace efforts in the region.
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