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Azeri, Armenian Leaders Agree to Continue Talks on Karabakh

The Armenian and Azeri presidents agreed to continue talks on the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region to negotiate a peaceful solution to the 25-year conflict after a three-year hiatus.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev pledged to “advance negotiations toward a peaceful settlement” and agreed to reconvene in “months ahead” after a meeting in Vienna today, international mediators representing the U.S., Russia and France said by e-mail. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier phoned the leaders, urging them to seek progress in the talks.

Armenians took over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave about the size of Rhode Island, and seven adjacent districts from Azerbaijan in a war after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. More than 30,000 people were killed and over a million displaced before Russia brokered a cease-fire in 1994.

“It’s more positive than in the recent past,” Lawrence Sheets, South Caucasus director at the International Crisis Group research group, said by phone from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. “But it will only be evident in three to five months if it’s sustained progress.”

Azerbaijan, buoyed by more than $40 billion of energy investments by BP Plc and partners, has increased military spending almost 30-fold to $3.7 billion in the last decade. Aliyev has repeatedly threatened to use force to regain control of the territory should peace talks mediated by the U.S., Russia and France fail.

Russia hopes the resumption of talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia will assist in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters yesterday after meeting his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian.

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