US to Hold Next Negotiating Round on Karabakh Conflict

WASHINGTON (AFP)–The United States is planning to hold a decisive round of talks with Armenian and Azeri leaders next month to try to hammer out a settlement for Nagorno-Karabakh–a State Department official said Monday.

"September will be a fairly intensive time," said the official–who asked not to be named. He said that "very serious discussions" were to be held after the September 2 elections in Nagorno-Karabakh to try to reach an agreement ending the conflict.

Azerbaijan’s President Gaidar Aliyev discussed the latest proposals for a peace settlement during his meeting with President Bill Clinton at the White House on August 1.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin is expected to also step in the fray and hold talks this month with Levon Ter-Petrosyan–the official said.

The White House meeting "certainly solidified the desire to resolve this issue," he said.

But Aliyev vowed during his visit here that he will never grant independence to Nagorno-Karabakh although he offered a high degree of autonomy.

US envoy Lynn Pascoe is expected to travel to the region next month to hold talks that could lead to a peace accord and the deployment of a peacekeeping force under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

So far–US officials have remained tight-lipped about the draft peace accord presented by the United States–Russia and France in June.

But Aliyev said in Washington he was prepared to agree to provisions that call for a withdrawal of Armenian forces to the boundaries of Nagorno-Karabakh and the deployment of OSCE troops along that frontier.

Following that first phase of withdrawal–Baku would open talks with the Armenian leadership in Stepanakert on the political status of Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for a gradual return of the Lachin and Shushi areas–Aliyev said.

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