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Azerbaijan Questions US Role in Karabakh Peace Talks

Azerbaijan is publicly questioning the neutrality of U.S. mediators engaged in negotiations to end the bitter and once violent standoff over a breakaway Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan.

Ali Hasanov, a top political advisor to President Ilham Aliyev, says the Baku government is not happy with U.S. efforts to broker a peace agreement ending the long-standing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hassan spoke Wednesday in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. He said U.S. negotiators are seen in his country as influenced by what he called the Armenian lobby.

U.S. officials have not commented on the accusation.

Backed by the Yerevan government, ethnic Armenians seized control of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. The conflict has claimed 35,000 lives and left more than 1 million others homeless.

The United States, France and Russia comprise the so-called Minsk Group, which is trying to negotiate a peace settlement.

Although major fighting subsided after a 1994 cease-fire, Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to accuse each other of violating the pact. There are regular reports of sniper fire in and near the enclave.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.