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Lavrov not 'too optimistic' over settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

This article was originally published by RFE/RL

During a visit to Armenia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there is no cause for "too much optimism" over a resolution of the long-standing conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Together with our American and French colleagues we will now analyze where we are right now, we will try to take some sort of active steps to create conditions to achieve a settlement," Lavrov said in Yerevan on November 21.

"I wouldn't be too optimistic, it's a challenging task, and our experience of negotiations makes us think they will not end quickly," he told a joint press conference with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for even longer.

The region, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's so-called Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

Speaking alongside Lavrov, Nalbandian said that Armenia was "willing to continue" negotiations to try resolve the conflict.

Lavrov also met in the Armenian capital with President Serzh Sarkisian, who said that relations between Russia and Armenia were "characterized by genuine alliance."

In a message read out at the opening ceremony of an historic exhibition in Yerevan on "friendship" between Russia and Armenia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia and Armenia "are not just good neighbors," according to Russian news agencies.

"We are bonded with shared history, pride in the feats of our ancestors, and traditions of friendship and mutual understanding that we cherish," he said.

Lavrov flew in to Armenia from Azerbaijan on November 20 as part of a regional tour timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the two ex-Soviet republics, which have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for even longer.

In Baku, where he met with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and President Ilham Aliyev, Lavrov said that friendly diplomatic relations between the two countries played "a great role in providing security" in the South Caucasus and Caspian regions.

During his meeting with Lavrov on November 19, Aliyev hailed the "high level" of bilateral ties between Azerbaijan and Russia and voiced confidence that cooperation will strengthen in the future.

He also said that his country was "very interested" in resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Interfax

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