Italy plans Karabakh peace talks in August

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The Independent Online
ROME (Reuter) - Italy said yesterday that a conference to end fighting in Nagorny Karabakh, the bloodiest ethnic conflict in the former Soviet Union, could be held as early as August.

Negotiators trying to end the war reached a tentative agreement to send international observers to the disputed, mostly Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan. But fighting was expected to go on for months.

'Under the most optimistic scenario, we could have a peace conference in Minsk (the Belarussian capital) as early as the beginning of August,' said Mario Sica, deputy chairman of the Italian-mediated talks. 'We can visualise the beginning of the peace process,' he added.

The agreement, whose 11 signatories included the United States, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the representatives of Nagorny Karabakh, represents the first step towards a ceasefire.

'As there is no ceasefire, it is obvious that the fighting will continue and that each side will try to improve its (military) position,' said Boris Arushanian, speaking for the enclave's Armenians.

The signatories called on all sides in the dispute to desist from any large offensive in the coming months.