Officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan have reported further progress toward a resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict after a fresh meeting of their presidents held in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijan's Ilham Aliev spoke one-on-one for more than two hours in total, before and after being joined by their foreign ministers and the U.S., Russian, and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.
It was the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents' fifth face-to-face encounter in the past year.
Neither president made any public statements after the talks, which came on the sidelines of an investment forum.
Sarkisian's office issued only a written statement saying that the meeting took place "in a constructive atmosphere."
"The parties agreed to move forward in the negotiating process," the Armenian presidential office's statement said. It added that they instructed their top diplomats and the mediators to continue their efforts to narrow Yerevan and Baku's disagreements and to prepare for another Armenian-Azerbaijani summit.
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"Although we cannot talk about a breakthrough or substantial progress today, the parties are moving forward and have agreed to continue negotiations," Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian told journalists.
Nalbandian's Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov, gave a similarly positive assessment of the talks.
"What we heard today [from the presidents] is creating a basis for the continuation of our work," Mammadyarov told RFE/RL's Armenian Service.
He said he thought the St. Petersburg talks were more productive than the previous Aliev-Sarkisian meeting held in Prague a month ago.
Mediators had said after that meeting that Aliev and Sarkisian bridged some of their differences on basic principles of a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement proposed by the troika.
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The Minsk Group's U.S. co-chair, Matthew Bryza, has repeatedly spoken of "significant progress" in Prague.
Bryza told RFE/RL that the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders were unlikely iron out all of their disagreements on "a handful of remaining principles" in St. Petersburg and would therefore need to hold more talks "relatively quickly."
"Based on their conversation in Prague, I do believe that a breakthrough can happen at St. Petersburg and/or shortly thereafter," Bryza said.