Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the former Soviet Republic engaged in a protracted war with neighboring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh, a region administered by the government in Baku, is fiercely contested by an overwhelming majority Armenian population and the government in Yerevan. Hostilities have recently threatened to spill out of the region and into other parts of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the resulting interest from European and Russian leaders has underlined the destabilizing potential of the conflict.

In the most recent peace talks, held in Paris this month, Haydar Aliyev—President of Azerbaijan—appeared to change the tone of the Azerbaijani position:

Few observers seriously believed that the Paris talks would yield significant progress, let alone a breakthrough, in resolving the conflict. But by the same token, neither was it widely expected that Azerbaijan would soften its negotiating position, as it did with regard to confidence-building measures.

That shift in the Azerbaijani rhetoric was, moreover, just one of several reasons why the meeting between the two presidents — their third within the past three months — may herald a new phase in the ongoing international effort to mediate a political solution that would at least partially satisfy all three parties to the conflict. (Liz Fuller and Richard Giragosian, RFE/RL, October 30)