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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Sarkisian denies asking Turkish mediation in peace talks

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Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has said Yerevan made no proposals to any country to mediate a settlement to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh conflict.

This comes after Turkish President Abdullah Gul said last week Ankara's mediation in Garabagh settlement had been sought by the Armenian leader.

Sarkisian told Armenia's Public TV that the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France, remains the sole mediator in the peace process. "There are no other mediators in negotiations."

With regard to Gul's statement, Sarkisian said he was not inclined to comment on the remarks of other statesmen. "Perhaps, the media took the Turkish president's words out of context and published them."

Nonetheless, the Armenian leader believes Turkey could contribute to the process of resolving the Garabagh problem.

"President Gul's recent visit to Armenia and the continuation of Armenian-Turkish talks is a very good example of addressing challenging issues," Sarkisian said.

He added that if Turkey opens up the border and establishes diplomatic relations with his country, this will affect resolution of the Garabagh conflict.

The presidents of Turkey and Armenia attended a 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match together in Yerevan early in September. Abdullah Gul became the first Turkish leader to visit Armenia. Yerevan saw the visit as an opportunity to normalize relations with the neighboring country, with which it maintains no diplomatic ties.

Armenia and Turkey have been at odds and the border between the two countries has been closed since 1993 on Ankara's insistence due to Armenia's policy of occupation against Azerbaijan and the "Armenian genocide" claims.

Armenia and Azerbaijan waged a war over the mountainous region in the early 1990s, which claimed some 30,000 lives and displaced about a million Azerbaijanis. Armenia has been occupying over 20% of Azerbaijan's internationally-recognized territory since then. The ceasefire accord was signed in 1994, but the OSCE-brokered peace talks have been fruitless so far.

Sarkisian said an incentive is in store for the resolution of the Garabagh conflict.

"The stagnation that emerged in the Garabagh settlement has already been eliminated. Further, an active phase will begin in the peace process," he told reporters, explaining the stalling conflict settlement with the presidential elections held in both countries.

Azerbaijan held presidential elections on October 15, while Armenia - on February 19.

Sarkisian again referred to the so-called independence of the separatist regime operating in Upper Garabagh, an Azeri region under Armenian occupation. He maintained that a solution to the conflict was possible if Azerbaijan recognized the self-proclaimed republic's "independence".

"Also, a peace accord can be concluded if there is an overland link of Upper Garabagh with Armenia and international organizations guarantee its security," Sarkisian claimed.