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Armenian, Azerbaijani Leaders Agree to Intensify Peace Talks


The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to intensify talks aimed at ending a decades-long conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The announcement came Sunday in Moscow, following a one-on-one meeting between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisyan. The two leaders were later joined by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who sponsored the meeting.

In a statement, the two Caucasus leaders said they are ready to continue pushing toward a "political settlement" to the conflict. They said they have agreed to instruct their foreign ministers to step up negotiations.

The Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1988, sparking a six-year armed conflict that claimed 35,000 lives. A 1994 cease-fire has been periodically interrupted by firefights.

Moscow is vying with Washington for influence in energy-rich Azerbaijan, a key exporter of oil and natural gas through pipelines that run through Georgia and Turkey.

The United States, Russia and France co-chair an international panel, the Minsk Group, that has sought to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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