Stroyev Meets with Azeri Officials

MOSCOW–BAKU (Xinhua/Itar-Tass)–Karabakh and illegal Russian arms shipment to Armenia were obstacles in development of the Azerbaijan’s relations with Russia and the other states of the Commonwealth of Independent States–Azeri Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov said on Sunday.

Karabakh–a former autonomous region of Azerbaijan–proclaimed the founding of a republic in September 1991–breaking away from Azerbaijan. In 1988–Karabakh approved a resolution demanding to join Armenia.

The Interfax news agency quoted the minister as reporting from Baku–capital of Azerbaijan–that Azerbaijan this year would undoubtedly continue pressing for a return to Russia of the weapons worth over one billion US dollars–received by Armenia illegally.

Hasanov emphasized that "this issue will be resolved only when all the illegally transferred weapons are withdrawn from Armenia."

On the Kremlin’s willingness to pay more attention to the problems of the Commonwealth of Independent States–the minister said that Azerbaijan thought that the Commonwealth had not resolved the main issue–a system of peace relationships between the CIS member states. There virtually was a state of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan–he added.

Hasanov expressed regret that Russia has never condemned Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan–saying–"for a number of reasons–Russia can and must play a special role in settling the Armenian-Azeri conflict."

He said Russia–as chairman of CIS and co-chairman of the Minsk-based group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–assigned to settle the conflict–should help resolve the issue.

In a Friday meeting with Yegor Stroyev–chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (Upper House)–who arrived in Baku after leaving Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan Friday–Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev said Azerbaijan advocates a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The president also called on the outer Caucasian countries–Azerbaijan and Armenia to restore their peaceful relationships.

Russia could play a more active role in mediating the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan–Aliyev said.

He hoped the Federation Council of Russia would do its best in this issue.

Baku was opposed to Russia providing Armenia with weapons–as well as to Russia’setting up military bases in other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States–especially in outer Caucasian countries–Aliyev pointed out.

Aliyev said he could not understand why there were still so many Russian troops in Armenia and Georgia.

Stroyev said that during his visit in Yerevan–Levon Ter-Petrosyan reiterated his intention of solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the basis of the Minsk Group plan–which had been mediating the conflict under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Stroyev indicated that Azerbaijan took a similar stand with Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Under the 1997 two-stage settlement plan of the Minsk Group–Armenian troops will first partially withdraw from the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Then–after the complete withdrawal is finished–consideration will be given to a highly autonomous status of the region within Azerbaijan territory.

At a Saturday press conference–Stroyev said his talks in Baku were successful and confirmed that there are no unsolved problems between Russia and Azerbaijan–but there are issues which need to be worked out. He had held additional meetings with parliament speaker Murtuz Aleskerov and the heads of standing commissions in the parliament.

He believes the time has come to take constructive measures and pursue further rapprochement.

On the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–Stroyev said that Moscow remains committed to a peaceful settlement and Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.

He stressed that during his tour both sides confirmed their willingness to solve this problem.

Levon Ter-Petrosyan asked Stroyev to tell Aliyev that he is determined to stick to the two-stage settlement scheme proposed by the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group.

At the same time–Stroyev warned against pushing the sides to hasty decisions. They need time to get ripe for constructive steps–he added.

Asked about the expediency of Russian military presence in Georgia and Armenia–Stroyev noted that Russian bases in these countries will never be used against Azerbaijan or any third country.

However–he made it clear that Russia has its own interests and it has every right to deploy its troops where it sees fit.

Stroyev and the accompanying officials are expected to leave for Moscow later in the day.

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