US envoy re-affirms commitment to Karabakh peace deal

Agence France Presse
April 22, 2004 Thursday 9:08 AM Eastern Time

US envoy re-affirms commitment to Karabakh peace deal


The United States believes it is in its interest to help find a
peaceful solution to the conflict between the former Soviet republics
of Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of
Nagorno-Karabakh, the top US mediator said Thursday.

Stephen Mann was speaking during his first visit to the region after
being appointed as the US representative to the Minsk Group, the body
mandated by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
to help tease out a peace deal.

About 35,000 people were killed and one million people made homeless
in a war before a ceasefire in 1994 left Armenia in de facto control
of over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave inside

But lingering tensions have caused instability in the Caucasus
region, an emerging key crossroads for oil exports from the Caspian
Sea to Western markets.

“My government has defined it as being firmly in our national
interest to work fully, to work energetically… to resolve these
problems and to give our full support to the governments of
Azerbaijan and Armenia to reaching a peaceful solution to the
conflict,” Mann told reporters.

“In coming to this job I… will be representing the United States’
national interest in these issues,” he said, adding that, “this is
not a problem that is going to be solved overnight.”

Washington is keen to develop the Caspian as an alternative source of
energy supplies to the Middle East, and is backing a major pipeline
project in the region.

Mann, who is also the senior US envoy for Caspian energy issues, met
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar
Mamedyarov on Thursday. Before coming to Azerbaijan he had visited
Armenia and neighbouring Georgia.