Russia is genuinely interested in a quick solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and hopes that the conflicting parties will soon sort out their differences to make a long-awaited peace deal, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
"I want to express hope that agreements between the leaderships and peoples of Armenia and Azerbaijan will be reached in the foreseeable future, the sooner the better," Putin told a news conference in Yerevan. "Russia has a vital interest in that," he added.
The Russian leader spoke at the end of a security summit of six former Soviet states. The Karabakh issue was high on the agenda of his talks with Armenian President Robert Kocharian the previous day. No details were
In an apparent effort to disprove the argument that Russia has been
thwarting a Karabakh settlement to retain its influence in the region, Putin claimed that the recent progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiation would not have been possible without Moscow's involvement in the peace process. The Kremlin's "special relationships" with both Yerevan and Baku put it in a position to speed up the settlement.
"But there should be no doubt that we will not use these special
relationships for any kind of pressure on both agreeing parties," Putin said.
Together with France and the United States, Russia leads the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, set up in 1992 to broker an end to the Karabakh conflict. After a series of face-to-face meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan the mediators hinted earlier this month that a breakthrough is now within reach. But they toned down their optimism following a four-day visit to the zone of conflict earlier this week, saying that that next month's Armenian-Azerbaijani summit due in Geneva could be postponed.
The Armenian foreign ministry on Wednesday acknowledged that unspecified "additional difficulties" emerged during the mediators' talks in Baku, Stepanakert and Yerevan. A ministry spokeswoman said Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliev will decide next week whether the meeting, which was hoped to produce the breakthrough, will take place as planned.
A senior Aliev aide on Friday blamed the Armenian side for the uncertainty. Novruz Mamedov, who heads the foreign relations department in Aliev's administration, told journalists in Baku that the Geneva meeting will be cancelled if the Armenians do not adopt a "constructive position" on Karabakh, the Turan news agency reported. Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev said earlier that Aliev will not fly to Geneva unless "certain" Azerbaijani demands are met.
Hrach Melkumian, Emil Danielyan in Prague