(AFP)–International mediators from France–Russia–and the United States were in Azerbaijan Friday urging the country’s leaders to renew efforts to find a peaceful solution to its long-running conflict with Armenia over Karabagh.
The mediators–making their first visit to the region after a year-long hiatus as the peace process became deadlocked–said it was time to look again at the search for a peace deal.
"We share the frustration over this conflict and that we have not made greater progress in resolving this over the last decade," said Rudolf Perina–the US diplomat seconded to the mediation mission at a meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev.
"Our countries are determined to help find a just–lasting peace," he added. "We believe there is a new–very important opportunity for both sides to take advantage of… We hope that this meeting will be a first step."
The trio of envoys from the Minsk Group–which has been mandated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to help tease out a peaceful solution to the Karabagh conflict. They are due to travel on from Azerbaijan to Armenia–and will be trying to arrange a peace summit between Azerbaijan’s Aliev and his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian.
The two sides came close to a deal in 2001–but since then have been deadlocked and many in Azerbaijan are frustrated with the peace process.
"In Azeri society–there is an impression that the Minsk Group will not produce results in the future. I do not want to believe that and hope that its activities will lead to peace," Aliev told the envoys.
Russia is seen as a key player in the Karabagh peace process because it has close ties to Armenia. Its envoy–Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov–signaled a possible change in policy Friday–referring for the first time to "the occupation by Armenia of a part of Azerbaijan’s territory."