Putin meets with Armenian, Azerbaijani leaders over disputed region

RUSSIA AZERBAIJAN/ARMENIA

Russian President, Vladimir Putin. EFE/File
Russian President, Vladimir Putin. EFE/File

— Russian President Vladimir Putin held meetings Saturday in the Black Sea city of Sochi with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in a bid to lower growing bilateral tensions over the disputed region of NagornoKarabakh.

Putin said prior to the start of his meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that they would discuss longstanding and sensitive issues related to solving the conflict, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Aliyev said the ArmenianAzerbaijani dispute has gone on "too long" and requires a solution.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, for his part, said before his meeting with Putin that he would inform the Russian leader in detail about the "situation in our region" and "the intentional exacerbation by Azerbaijan of the situation on the ArmenianAzerbaijani border."

Without providing details on Saturday's meetings, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press conference that the three leaders may hold a trilateral summit Sunday, apparently in a continued pursuit of a negotiated solution to the conflict.

"The purpose of the meeting is just to lower the tensions in the Karabakh conflict area," a lawmaker and member of the Azerbaijan parliament's InterParliamentary Relations Committee, Rasim Musabekov, told Efe.

"Putin wants to show the international community that he not only should be associated with a lack of constructiveness for his role in the Ukrainian conflict but can also be a peacemaker," he added.

But "it makes no sense to expect major progress in that meeting," Musabekov said.

Vafa Guluzade, an Azerbaijani political analyst, was even more skeptical, saying that as an ally of Armenia, Russia is interested in increasing tensions in Karabakh to apply pressure on Baku.

Hostilities between Azerbaijanis and Armenians resumed on July 31 with the deaths of eight Azerbaijani soldiers, the largest singleday casualty figure for that nation's side in the 20 years since a ceasefire was established.

Amid the escalating conflict, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is responsible for supervising the 1994 ceasefire, called for an urgent meeting of the two nations' presidents.

The conflict in the disputed region of NagornoKarabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians and controlled by Yerevan, goes back to the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the region's Armenian population sought unification with Armenia, leading to a 19911994 war that left more than 25,000 people dead.

NagornoKarabakh and Armenian troops occupy the entire enclave and seven adjacent districts and have created a "security buffer" that represents a third of Azerbaijani territory.

 
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