MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Ministry has appointed a special representative to facilitate the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

Moscow announced late on Thursday that Igor Khovaev, the Russian co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, will now work as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s special envoy on “fostering the normalization of relations” between the two South Caucasus states.

“The issue of preparing for the peace treaty will be at the center of his attention,” said Zakharova. “We count on the support of Khovaev’s efforts by our allies and partners in Baku and Yerevan.”

Zakharova recalled that this issue was discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in telephone calls with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on April 9, and a day earlier by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov.

“Russia is determined to promote the conclusion of a peace treaty between Yerevan and Baku,” she said.

Zakharova noted that Washington and Paris curtailed all contacts with Moscow within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing troika on Feb. 24, despite the fact that the real situation in the South Caucasus does not allow negotiating pauses, and further consistent steps are needed to restore lasting peace and stability in the region.

She said also that Ambassador at Large Igor Khovayev will act in a new capacity as special representative of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs to promote normalization of relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia.

According to Zakharova, he will focus on the preparation of the above-mentioned peace treaty. ‘We expect our allies and partners in Baku and Yerevan to support Khovayev’s efforts. We are open for constructive interaction with other interested players,” Zakharova said.

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