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Bako Sahakian, the head of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has called for preserving the current format of negotiations over the protracted conflict with Azerbaijan, with the United States, France and Russia continuing to lead international efforts to resolve the dispute.

At the same time, Sahakian stressed the need for restoring Nagorno-Karabakh’s status as a full party to the negotiating process.

The Karabakh leader made the remarks while receiving the French negotiator in Stepanakert Tuesday evening.

Bernard Fassier, the French cochairman of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), was in the Karabakh capital to discuss the recent developments in the region and their impact on the negotiating process around Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to the Nagorno-Karabakh president’s press office, during the meeting, Sahakian and Fassier also pointed out the need for taking concrete steps towards forming an atmosphere of trust between the parties to the conflict.

Fassier’s visit followed his U.S. counterpart’s regional tour, including a trip to Stepanakert late last week. The intensified diplomatic efforts of the international negotiators proceed against the background of a thaw in Armenian-Turkish relations following Turkish leader Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenian capital Yerevan on September 6.

The Armenian president last Friday publicly appreciated Turkey’s offer of assistance in the normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. But Serzh Sarkisian told media that he differentiated between ‘assistance’ and ‘mediation’.

However, the statement was construed by some observers as an approval of Turkey’s plans to increase its role in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is viewed by many as a threat to the current format of the peace process.

Sarkisian’s most vocal political opponent in Armenia, ex-President Levon Ter-Petrosian later voiced his concerns over intensified efforts of Turkey to supplant the Minsk Group, which he implied would bolster Azerbaijan’s stance in the long-running dispute with Armenia.

“The Minsk Group format is the most correct format, because it has provided the balance of superpowers and allowed us to ensure the Nagorno-Karabakh problem is not solved due to unilateral efforts of any of the superpowers,” Ter-Petrosian told an opposition rally in Yerevan Monday.

At a news briefing following his meeting with Karabakh leadership on Tuesday, Fassier hailed the efforts of Armenia and Turkey to improve their historically strained relations.

“Armenia’s president acted wisely by inviting Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan, although many in Azerbaijan and Turkey had thought such a meeting was impossible,” Fassier said, as quoted by the Russian news agency Regnum.

“Any efforts of goodwill that could prove useful for the negotiating process should be welcomed,” the French mediator added. “Turkey is a significant member of the OSCE Minsk Group. As a member of the Minsk Group it has long supported the process and the efforts of the cochairmen… All these efforts, if concentrated, may prove useful.”

On Wednesday, Fassier was in Yerevan where he was received by President Serzh Sarkisian.

In a brief statement the presidential press service reported that the main subject on the meeting agenda was “the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the latest developments in the region.”

The French diplomat was scheduled to give a press conference in Yerevan later on Wednesday.
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