(AFP) - Peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve one of Europe's longest-running armed conflicts are "intensifying" after a period of stagnation, Azerbaijan's foreign minister told AFP in an interview.
Elmar Mamedyarov said that the newly-expanded European Union was showing a greater interest in resolving the conflict over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a factor he said will have a "positive impact."
Azerbaijan's foreign minister was speaking a week after President Ilham Aliev, on a visit to EU headquarters in Brussels, urged the organization to take a more active stand in helping tease out a peaceful solution.
"The negotiations ... have recently become more intensive after a certain stagnation," Mamedyarov, a 44-year-old career diplomat appointed last month, told AFP in the interview at the weekend. "After the European Union received new members, the EU, and Europe as a whole, has begun to look attentively at our part of Europe," he said. "I believe that will have a positive impact on the search for a resolution of the conflict."
He said Azerbaijan's negotiators were pushing for an interim deal, under which Armenia would relinquish its control over the regions around Karabakh in exchange for the Azeri side loosening its economic blockade on Armenia. This deal would reduce tension between the two sides, and
"create a possibility for negotiations to go forward in a more free atmosphere to find some sort of compromise," Mamedyarov said.
Armenian negotiators have already rejected this proposal but the Azeri foreign minister said he would be "persistent." "Resolving this question is a priority for us," Mamedyarov added. "It is very difficult, when you are in the twenty-first century, you are moving towards Europe, and you have these displaced persons and you feel under occupation."