US, Russia, France back Nagorno-Karabakh peace moves

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, center, and U.S. President Barack Obama clap after a commemoration ceremony at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy on Friday, July 10, 2009. AP Photo: Michel Euler

HUNTSVILLE, Ontario, June 26 (Reuters) – The United States, France and Russia on Saturday pledged to support Armenia and Azerbaijan as they try to agree basic principles for settling a dispute over Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said both sides had made a significant step in accepting the overall framework of a deal and now needed to work on details.

“Now the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan need to take the next step and complete the work on the basic principles to enable the drafting of a peace agreement to begin,” the three leaders said in a joint statement issued during a Group of Eight meeting in Canada.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit both Armenia and Azerbaijan early next month during a trip to the South Caucasus.

The dispute between mostly Muslim Azerbaijan and mostly Christian Armenia remains a threat to stability in the South Caucasus, an important route for oil and gas supplies from the Caspian region to Europe.

Skirmishes, sometimes fatal, erupt frequently along front lines near Nagorno-Karabakh, a small mountainous region under the control of ethnic Armenians who fought a six-year separatist war with support from neighboring Armenia.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed and one million displaced before a cease-fire in 1994 but a peace accord has never been agreed and the ethnic Armenian leadership’s independence claim has not been recognized by any country.

The three powers’ joint statement on Saturday said the so-called “Helsinki principles” now recognized by both sides relate to the return of the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteeing security and self-governance and a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The framework also calls for the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh to be determined by a legally-binding vote and the right of all internally-displaced persons and refugees to return.

More than a decade of mediation led by Russia, France and the United States has failed to produce a final peace deal and Azerbaijan has said it may use force to try to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tension has increased since Armenia and its traditional foe Turkey, which has close ties to Azerbaijan, reached a rapprochement last year.

The accord crumbled this year when Armenia suspended ratification after Turkish demands that it first reach terms over Nagorno-Karabakh, a condition set by Turkey to appease Azerbaijan, an oil and gas producer.

(reporting by Alister Bull, writing by Andrew Quinn; editing by David Storey)

26 Jun 2010 19:24:03 GMT Source: Reuters

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One thought on “US, Russia, France back Nagorno-Karabakh peace moves

  1. Full text of Medvedev, Obama, and Sarkozy Joint Statement on Karabakh

    We, the Presidents of the OSCE Minsk Group’s Co-Chair countries, France, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America, reaffirm our commitment to support the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan as they finalize the Basic Principles for the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

    We welcome as a significant step the recognition by both sides that a lasting settlement must be based upon the Helsinki Principles and the elements that we proposed in connection with our statement at the L’Aquila Summit of the Eight on July 10, 2009, relating to: the return of the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteeing security and self-governance, a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh; final status of Nagorno-Karabakh to be determined in the future by a legally-binding expression of will, the right of all internally-displaced persons and refugees to return, and international security guarantees, including a peacekeeping operation.

    Now the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan need to take the next step and complete the work on the Basic Principles to enable the drafting of a peace agreement to begin. We instruct our Ministers and Co-Chairs to work intensively to assist the two sides to overcome their differences in preparation for a joint meeting in Almaty on the margins of OSCE Informal Ministerial.

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