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    Russian leader offers to host Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks

    HotNewsTurkey with wires
    21.10.2008 - 11:24 | Son Güncelleme: 21.10.2008 - 16:11

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday proposed a renewed role in the mediation between Caucasus foes Armenia and Azerbaijan, amid a rising push by outside powers for influence in the region. (UPDATED)

    Speaking in Yerevan on his first visit to the South Caucasus since Russia's recent military thrust into Georgia, Medvedev said he planned to host peace talks on the war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.  

     

    "I hope that in the near future a meeting between the three presidents will take place to find a solution to the problem" of the disputed territory, Medvedev said at a news conference with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Armenia's capital. "I hope it will take place in Russia," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

     

    The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988 over Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan.

     

    Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. Turkey cut its diplomatic relations and closed the border with Armenia after the occupation of Azerbaijani territory.

     

    In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are currently holding peaceful negotiations.
     

    Medvedev's initiative comes as the United States and Turkey are seeking greater influence in Armenia, a nation that has relied on Russia as its protector.

     

    In a sign of shifting political currents, Armenia took an ambiguous stance on Russia's conflict with Georgia in August and refused to follow Moscow’s lead in recognizing the independence of the rebel Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

     

    Sargsyan said Armenia was ready for talks with Azerbaijan on the basis of principles worked out at international negotiations in Madrid last year, meaning that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh gain the right to self-determination.

     

    "Armenia is ready to pursue (peace) negotiations on the basis of the Madrid principles," Sargsyan was quoted by AFP as saying.

     

    Medvedev's visit, in which he presided at the renaming of a central Yerevan square as Russia Square, came amid growing Western attention to the war-torn Caucasus in the wake of the August war with Georgia over the Russian-backed region of South Ossetia.

     

    While the Russian daily Izvestia pointed to Armenia's isolation and said Russia was its only real friend, other observers believe the conflict in Georgia, which disrupted gas supplies in the region, may spur Armenia into new alliances.

     

    Russia currently has a military base in Armenia and runs the country's chief energy source, a nuclear power station.

     

    In the wake of the August war in Georgia, Turkey, historically a counter-weight to Russia, proposed a new format for discussions: a "Platform for Cooperation and Stability in the Caucasus." And last month saw an historic first visit to Armenia by Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

     

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