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Lavrov In Baku To Discuss Karabakh Conflict, Bilateral Ties

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) shakes hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ahead of a meeting in Baku on November 19.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, in Baku on November 20 for talks expected to focus on bilateral relations and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Lavrov, who has already met with President Ilham Aliyev in the Azerbaijani capital, will later travel to Yerevan for talks with the Armenian president and foreign minister.

The Russian top diplomat's tour to Armenia and Yerevan is timed with the 25th anniversary of the first diplomatic relations between Moscow and the two countries, which have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE's so-called Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

Meeting Lavrov in Baku on November 19, Aliyev said that his country is "very interested” in resolving the conflict.

The Russian foreign minister said that Russia wants to “help find a solution and ensure progress toward the settlement” of the conflict.

Aliyev also hailed the “high level” of bilateral ties between Azerbaijan and Russia and expressed confidence that cooperation will strengthen in the future.

Lavrov noted that bilateral trade has grown by at least 60 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year.

Later on November 20, Lavrov will head to Yerevan for talks with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian.

Nalbandian said last week that Lavrov's visit, which will end on November 21, will provide an opportunity to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and bilateral cooperation.

"There is a truly broad range of issues thanks to our strategic, friendly relations," he told reporters on November 17. "We will spare no effort in developing and deepen our ties."

With reporting by TASS and Interfax