Aliyev Blasts Kocharian Appointment Russian Presence

PARIS (Reuter)–On a one-day visit to Paris Thursday–Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with President Jacques Chirac–welcoming French conflict-resolution mediation efforts–and attacked the appointment of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Robert Kocharian as Armenian prime minister Aliyev also criticized the continued presence of Russian troops in Armenia and Georgia–saying such a deployment was especially unnecessary in the light of Moscow’s economic problems. "The fact that we refused to keep Russian troops on our soil proves our policy of independence…There is no need today for Russian troops on Azeri soil–nor do I think there is a reason to have them on Armenian or Georgian territory," he said. "I don’t think it’s right and I even protest against that." The Moscow based "Segodnya" paper covering Aliyev’s official visit to the Ukraine reported that Azerbaijan is trying to get NATO peace-keeping forces sent to Karabakh–saying that Yerevan is planning a new aggression in Karabakh. Azerbaijan is not accepting Russia’s peace-keeping efforts–saying that Moscow is pro-Armenian. However–NATO is refraining from sending any troops to Karabakh for obvious political reasons. Ukrainian peace-keeping battalions have already been sent to the Balkans within the NATO mission. Baku wants to see Ukrainian battalions in Karabakh–which–according to the newspaper–will lead to a collision of interests for Ukraine–Russia and Armenia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze also urged Ukraine to take an active part in solving the Abkhazian crisis. The newspaper stresses that if this happens–Russia will not be able to avoid conflict with Azerbaijan–Ukraine and Georgia–which in turn–will lead to new conflicts in the Transcaucasus. He told reporters he had agreed to meet Levon Ter-Petrosyan in Moscow Friday after both men attend a summit of former Soviet republics grouped in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Asked about Kocharian’s appointment Aliyev said–"This is an extraordinarily negative factor." He said Chirac had agreed with him that Kocharian could not simultaneously hold both the position of president of Karabakh and prime minister of Armenia. Aliyev said Kocharian was not even an Armenian citizen. France is one of three co-chairmen of the Minsk group mandated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to seek a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette is to travel to Baku–Yerevan and Turkey next week to promote peace efforts. After meeting Aliyev–he told reporters that France–Russia and the United States–the three co-chairmen–were united in their determination to find an equitable solution soon. "Nothing is more important than advancing a solution to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh," he said. Officials of the Minsk Group and the parties to the dispute are due to hold a new round of talks next Tuesday in Moscow.

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