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    Armenia, Azerbaijan agree 'preamble' to Karabakh deal

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    Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed the preamble to an agreement on Nagorny Karabakh and are preparing new proposals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

    Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed the preamble to an agreement on Nagorny Karabakh and are preparing new proposals, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

    "There is a general understanding on the preamble of the document," Lavrov said after tripartite negotiations in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi. He added that the preamble revised and updated the OSCE Madrid principles.

    The Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents, Dmitry Medvedev, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, met in Sochi earlier on Monday.

    The Madrid principles, adopted in November 2007, envisage a stage-by-stage resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that should start with the gradual liberation of parts of Azerbaijan bordering Karabakh that were partly or fully occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-94 war. In return, Karabakh should retain a corridor to Armenia and be able to determine its final status in a future referendum.

    Lavrov said that although some parts of the document had yet to be synchronized, "the sides will prepare their concrete proposals, their concrete wording, which will be worked into the text."

    "We are sure that this will help the co-chairs in their future work," he said. "The presidents have agreed to continue it [the work]."

    The issue of Nagorny Karabakh, a breakaway region inside Azerbaijan with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population, has been a sticking point in relations between the two former Soviet states.

    The conflict first erupted in 1988, when the region claimed independence from Azerbaijan to join Armenia. More than 30,000 people are estimated to have died on both sides between 1988 and 1994. Nagorny Karabakh has remained in Armenian control since then.

    The Caucasus neighbors continue to accuse each other of violating the ceasefire agreed in 1994, and Azerbaijan threatening to use force if the talks yield no results.

    Russia, along with France and the United States, is a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is mediating efforts to resolve the conflict.

    The Minsk Group reported some important progress in talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders in Munich late last year, but tensions between the two ex-Soviet republics remain high.

    The Nagorny Karabakh issue is an obstacle to opening borders and reestablishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey, which has close ties with Azerbaijan. Last October, the two states signed a reconciliation agreement, but the accords are still to be ratified by their respective parliaments.

    SOCHI, January 25 (RIA Novosti) 

     

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