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Russia sincerely seeks an early end to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Unofficial translation - PRESS RELEASE

Russia sincerely seeks an early end to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. It is exerting its mediation efforts not only in close collaboration with its partners, co-chairs of the Minsk OSCE group, the US and France, but also independently.

On January 24, on the eve of the meeting of the Council of CIS Heads of State a new "one-on-one" meeting of the two leaders was held in Moscow at the Russian initiative. Acting President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, took part in the final phase of the meeting.

The exchange of opinions proceeded in a benevolent atmosphere and reaffirmed the commitment of the Azerbaijan and Armenian leaders to looking for compromise agreements of a fundamental character. The parties have agreed to continue discussing the Karabakh issue at the top level in the near future.

Moscow attaches great significance to and supports regular direct dialog between President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and President Kocharyan of the Republic of Armenia. We believe that this dialog initiated at the meeting of the leaders of the two neighboring countries during the April 1999 CIS summit in Moscow, has become an important political factor strengthening mutual confidence and straightening the path towards untangling the Karabakh knot.

The confidential contacts between the Azeri and Armenian leaders held since that time have proved effective. Already, much has been achieved. Exchanges of POWs is taking place, and the ceasefire regime is being strengthened. Negotiations between the foreign and defense ministries of Baku and Yerevan continue. Most importantly, the level of mutual understanding between Heidar Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan has been rising with every talk. And this is a guarantee of further progress in solving the Karabakh problem.

During the course of the meeting on January 24 Russia stressed it would be ready to support a settlement that would suit all the parties to the conflict and bring back peace and tranquility to the region. To encourage the dialog Russia also stated that in the event a compromise between Azerbaijan and Armenia is reached Russia would be ready to act as a guarantor of the settlement.