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MOSCOW, August 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian government's efforts to ease tensions around Azerbaijan’s breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh were not in vain, experts say. The fact that Armenia and Azerbaijan presidents sat down to negotiate is an achievement in itself.
Leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed the issue in Russia's southern city of Sochi on Sunday. A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin met presidents of the disputing countries Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliev separately. At the meeting on Sunday, the parties said the conflict could only be settled peacefully. But even in the section open to the media, mutual claims were voiced. Even so, the meeting was useful, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Developments in the enclave deteriorated early in August, with the two countries accusing each other of an escalation leading to casualties on both sides.
The two neighboring countries fell out in the late 1980s because of Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but was mainly populated by Armenians.
In 1991-1994, the confrontation spilled over into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and some adjacent territories. Thousands left their homes on both sides of a conflict that killed 30,000. A truce was called between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh republic on one side and Azerbaijan on the other side in May 1994.
Until recently, the crisis was a simmering conflict. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the US and France, had failed to reach any considerable progress towards a peace settlement since 1992.
It is good news that negotiations at least have taken place. Talks would delay the conflict's development, senior expert at the MGIMO University’s Center of Military and Political Studies Mikhail Alexandrov said.
“Vladimir Putin got involved at exactly the right time,” he told ITAR-TASS, adding that Azerbaijan was a somewhat unwilling negotiator.
“The situation around Russia is now difficult, America is instigating conflict in the post-Soviet states. Seeing Russia did not interfere with developments in (the industrial and mining region of east Ukraine and south-west Russia) Donbass, Azerbaijan thought it would much less want to get involved in the Karabakh conflict if military action started,” the expert said. Politicians in Baku thus felt “they were let loose”, Alexandrov added.
Russia's president, the expert said, took the heat out of the dispute to a degree as Azerbaijan agreed that the conflict could only be settled peacefully. “Obviously, Aliev was persuaded not to cause escalation of the international conflict. The situation has thus somewhat stabilised,” he said.
If Baku was not willing to start a big war, occasional border incidents would not lead to a conflict, Alexandrov said.
The Karabakh conflict can only be resolved by joint efforts of Russia, Turkey and Iran, said senior research fellow at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Yevgeny Bakhrevsky.
“This tinder box is dangerous for all neighbors,” he was quoted by Gazeta.ru as saying. “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can therefore be settled only with Russia, Turkey and Iran taking an active stance. Then it will be resolved quickly and without bloodshed."
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