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SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  I just have a few things to say at the outset.

First, to both of my colleagues and their delegations, great thanks and appreciation for the important and hard work that’s continued in the effort to reach a durable peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as to deal with a number of other important issues that can help advance relations between the countries.  I’m grateful for the time that you’ve all spent here, now the second meeting that we’ve held.  I appreciated very much the opportunity to spend time with you, as did our team, the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and appreciate again that, as we’ll share in a statement that’ll be released in a little while, further progress toward this shared objective of an agreement, to include agreement on some additional articles as well as a deepening understanding of the positions on other outstanding issues, as well as a recognition that there is – there remains hard work to be done to try to reach a final agreement.

We’ve had a series of meetings not only here but also with our counterparts – hosted by our counterparts in the European Union, to include as well Prime Minister Pashinyan and President Aliyev, and we know that a further meeting is expected in a few weeks’ time with the European Union and the president and prime minister.  And we look forward to continuing this process as well in the weeks ahead to take advantage of the momentum that we’ve helped achieve through these meetings, through further agreement on different discrete pieces, with, again, the objective of reaching an overall and final agreement in the weeks and months ahead.

I think there’s also a clear understanding on everyone’s part that the closer we get, the closer you get to reaching an agreement, in some cases the harder it gets, because by definition the most difficult issues are left for the end.  But I very much appreciate the spirit of candor, openness, directness that everyone has exhibited.  That is the way, ultimately, to reach understanding and, finally, to reach agreement.

So again, thank you both for being here.  Thank you for the hard work that’s gone into these three days.  Thank you for the progress that has been made.  And thank you for the determination to continue this effort in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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