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Russian, Armenian Leaders Upbeat On Karabakh


Presidents Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia fish during their informal meeting in Zavidovo, Russia on April 23, 2009.

The presidents of Armenia and Russia reported fresh progress in international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the development of economic ties between their countries after informal talks near Moscow on Thursday.

Greeting his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian at his Zavidovo retreat, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said the meeting underlines the fact that “we are strategic partners in all respects.” “We have a tradition to invite our closest partners for talks here in Zavidovo,” he told Sarkisian.

The Karabakh conflict was apparently high on the agenda of the talks that lasted longer than was planned. “I think that by and large we are now on the right track of discussions,” Medvedev told journalists after them. “Quite a few small but important steps towards each other have been taken [by the conflicting parties] of late.”

“Both my recent contacts with the president of Azerbaijan and our negotiations today with Serzh Azatovich confirm that the parties are ready move in the constructive direction in order to solve this very difficult problem,” he added. “So I think the movement is quite encouraging in this sense.”

Sarkisian shared Medvedev’s cautious optimism, saying that he is encouraged by statements made by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev after similar talks with the Russian leader late last week. He argued that Aliev did not speak about a military solution to the Karabakh dispute or refer only to the principle of territorial integrity.

Aliev expressed hope last Friday that the Karabakh conflict will be settled “rather quickly.” He is due to meet on Saturday with the visiting American, Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The mediating troika met with Sarkisian in Yerevan on Tuesday. Matthew Bryza, the group’s U.S. co-chair, told RFE/RL that the Karabakh peace process is entering a “new phase” that will involve a “deeper, more detailed discussion” of the remaining Armenian-Azerbaijani differences.

Medvedev said he and Sarkisian also reviewed “very concrete economic issues” of mutual interest. “I even phoned our colleagues from the government and the business community to push things forward and perhaps use unconventional economic mechanisms in some cases and use guarantees in others,” he said without elaborating.

Medvedev also said that despite the global economic crisis, Yerevan and Moscow will seek to expand bilateral economic cooperation and, in particular, “energy and infrastructure projects.” “We talked about that as well,” he said.

Sarkisian said at the beginning of the meeting that Russian companies are showing “real interest” in Armenia’s ambitious plans to build a new nuclear power plant. He said that interest should translate into billions of dollars in additional Russian investments in the Armenian economy “in the next three or four years.”

The two leaders said nothing about a $500 million loan which Russian has pledged to provide to Armenia to mitigate the effects of the global recession on its economy.
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