Ahead of the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents’ key meeting in Russia, US mediator of the Minsk Group Matt Bryza tells the Daily News that the strengthening dialogue has brought mediation efforts to a ‘new and hopeful level’ and welcomes Moscow's contributions

The United States has welcomed the progress in the peace process between regional rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan concerning the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
“There is a real breakthrough in negotiations,” said Matt Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. The U.S. official on Monday attended the European Union’s flagship Nabucco natural gas pipeline project signing ceremony in Ankara, where he spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Together with Russia and France, the United States is co-chairing an international panel, the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, which has sought to mediate the dispute between the two countries.
The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are due to meet in Russia on Friday for the sixth time in 13 months and the third time in three months.
“The OSCE Minsk Group’s mediation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is accelerating. … The increasing pace of their meetings reflects a strengthening of the dialogue between the presidents,” Bryza said.
“These factors have brought our mediation effort to a new and hopeful level. We hope the presidents’ meeting on July 17 will build on the important progress they made in St. Petersburg on June 4, and clear the way to finalize the set of basic principles proposed by the Minsk Group co-chairs in Madrid in November 2007.”
He stressed President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were providing their personal support to his efforts as the U.S. mediator.
“The three Minsk Group co-chairs, from the United States, Russia, and France, work together as a strong and collaborative team. We welcome the important and positive contributions by Russian President Medvedev,” said Bryza.
In recent remarks marking the most revealing announcement to date on the details of the peace process, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the Armenian pullback from five territories was reflected in the Minsk Group’s proposals and only after the complete withdrawal could there be discussion about the status of Karabakh.
“The question of the phased withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories outside Nagorno-Karabakh is the first stage. Immediately after the signing of agreements, troops are slated to be withdrawn from five regions,” Aliyev was quoted as saying, adding that the withdrawal of forces from the two regions would take place five years after the initial pull back.
While in London on Monday, Aliyev, who did not attend the Nabucco signing ceremony in Ankara, instead sending his energy minister Natik Aliyev, said Nagorno-Karabakh would never be recognized as an independent country.