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Kerry, Lavrov Hold Phone Talks On Karabakh


Russia -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) greets US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting in Moscow, March 24, 2016

Russia -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) greets US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting in Moscow, March 24, 2016

U.S. Secretary State of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in a phone call on Monday, reiterating their governments’ calls for an immediate halt to continuing hostilities there.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the two men voiced “serious concern at the escalation of the confrontation” in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict zone.

“It was agreed that Russia, the U.S. and France, as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, will step up their efforts to foster a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” read a ministry statement.

“Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry condemned attempts by certain ‘external players’ to whip up the standoff around Karabakh,” it added without elaborating.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow earlier in the day, Lavrov warned against attempts to “undermine the role of the Minsk Group co-chairs” and seek a different format for the Karabakh negotiation process. He spoke of forces keen to “seriously complicate the settlement process” but did not name them.

Azerbaijan as well as its ally Turkey have repeatedly criticized the U.S., Russian and French mediators.

Lavrov implicitly warned the Turks against meddling in the Karabakh conflict but stopped short of blaming them for the outbreak of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. “I don’t want to judge what role Ankara has or has not played with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said. “But it would be good for everyone, including Turkey and the Turkish people, if Ankara concentrated on ending support for terrorism.”

The TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as also saying that that Russia and the two other mediating powers are making “energetic efforts” to stop the fighting along “the line of contact” around Karabakh. “These efforts will continue in order to ensure a return to the ceasefire regime,” he said.

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow is engaged in an “intensive dialogue” with Armenia and Azerbaijan “at the ministerial level.” The official, Dmitry Peskov, would not say whether Putin plans to host an emergency meeting of his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts.

“Any summit needs to be properly prepared for,” Peskov said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

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