Azerbaijan urged the United States on Sunday to help solve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed its government on human rights.
Clinton said in the Azerbaijani capital Baku that reaching a peace deal on Karabakh was a "high priority" and that Washington was ready to help.
"We stand ready to help both Azerbaijan and Armenia to achieve and implement a lasting peace settlement. The final steps toward peace are often the most difficult. But we see peace as a possibility," she said at a news conference with her Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov.
"We believe there has been progress. This is a high priority for the US," Clinton said.
Clinton had earlier met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said he expected the United States "to work closely with us and with others on the resolution" of the conflict.
"This is a major problem for us and the major threat to regional security," Aliyev said. "We want to find a resolution based on international law and we want to find it as soon as possible. Our people are suffering."
She also will meet President Serzh Sarkisian in Armenia.
Baku in April accused the United States of siding with Christian Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region which has been occupied since the 1990s in a war that killed some 30,000.
As a result of the strains in the relationship, including the absence of a U.S. ambassador for more than a year, Baku said it will reconsider its ties with the United States. Azerbaijan wants Nagorno-Karabakh back. More than 15 years of mediation have failed to produce a final peace deal.
US sees a key route Azerbaijan that strategically located between Russia and Iran for U.S. troops occupying Afghanistan.
Clinton is the second top U.S. official to visit Azerbaijan in a month, following Defense Secretary Robert Gates' early June trip designed to guarantee U.S. supply lines for Afghanistan invasion.
The strains ran so deep that Gates delivered a letter to Aliyev in June from U.S. President Barack Obama, who said he was aware of the "serious issues in our relationship" but was confident they could be addressed.
Since 2001, military aircraft and supply trucks have crossed the country carrying U.S. and NATO forces and equipment to Afghanistan. The Pentagon wants to avoid problems that could slow Obama's 30,000-troop surge.
While seeking to improve relations and make some headway on Nagorno-Karabakh, Clinton also pressed Azerbaijan to show greater respect for civil liberties and said she had raised the case of two jailed opposition bloggers.
Speaking to civil society advocates, including bloggers, Clinton later said Azerbaijan had some way to go on respecting its citizens rights.
"While considerable progress has been made here, you know better than I there is work to be done," Clinton told about a dozen young Azeris. "There are still lots of challenges."
She told the Azeri foreign minister that the United States was clear in encouraging and calling for more progress in the area of human rights.
Clinton said she and Obama had received letters about two Azeri bloggers who were sentenced last year to two and two and a half years in jail after a violent incident in a cafe in which the bloggers say they were the victims of an unprovoked attack.
The incident happened shortly after video blogger Adnan Hajizade posted his latest tongue-in-cheek swipe at authorities, in which he held a fake news conference dressed as a donkey.
Charged with hooliganism and inflicting bodily harm, their imprisonment drew concern from the European Union and widespread criticism from rights groups, with Amnesty International saying the bloggers were convicted on fabricated charges.