Despite an agreement among the U.S., Russian and French presidents at the G-8 summit in Deauville, France, that it is time for a peaceful settlement to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev failed to make much progress when they met in Kazan, Russia, last week. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the meeting "disappointing," though she added, the parties "had improved their understanding on a number of issues."
The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh has its roots in Soviet-era boundaries that located the Armenian-populated enclave as an autonomous region within Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921. Since then, the inhabitants have been demanding secession from Azerbaijan and a union with neighboring Armenia. However, the modern period of conflict began in 1988 with the Soviet Union's democratization and perestroika, and has escalated in the years since. In 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence, although no other country has recognized it as such.* One year later, Armenia took control of the Lachin corridor connecting the province to Armenia geographically. The majority of military hostilities ended in 1994, with Armenia controlling the vast majority of the former autonomous enclave as well as several adjacent districts.*
Since then, negotiations mediated by the Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the U.S. and France, have centered on returning several districts of the buffer zone to Azerbaijan in exchange for a mutually satisfactory political status for Nagorno-Karabakh. Though Armenia and Azerbaijan came close in 1997, 1999 and 2001, a final resolution has never been reached.