Kocharian Aliyev Meet; Yeltsin Calls for Peace

MOSCOW (Reuters–Itar-Tass)–Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan vowed to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at their first meeting since Robert Kocharian–once leader of Karabakh–was elected Armenian president last month.

Russian president Boris Yeltsin called on both to negotiate peace in the region.

The two presidents issued a joint statement regarding the outcome of their Tuesday meeting at Moscow’s President Hotel.

"The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia confirm their adherence to the peaceful political settlement of the Karabakh armed conflict through negotiations within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group–and express their readiness to abide by the cease-fire introduced in May 1994," the statement said.

"The Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Armenia express their readiness to assist in the activity of the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group and their commissioners aimed at achieving real progress in the conflict settlement."

Speaking after the hour and a half meeting–which was initiated by the Azeri side–President Robert Kocharian said he proposed to withdraw the word "armed" from the definition of the conflict. "We want to settle the conflict in general–not just the armed conflict," he said.

The president said they had had a fruitful conversation and exchanged opinions on a wide range of issues.

Asked when the new meeting will be held–President Haidar Aliyev told Itar-Tass it would be held "as need be." Kocharian added "we would agree."

Both men were in Russia for a summit of former Soviet republics grouped in the Commonwealth of Independent States.

They pledged to maintain a 1994 cease-fire that ended six years of fighting that left 35,000 dead and to work for peace within the framework of the ad hoc Minsk group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

No details were given of where concrete progress might be made. Aliyev was quoted as saying they had covered a broad range of issues in "fruitful" discussions lasting an hour and a half.

Yeltsin–known for his forthright style in tackling Russia’s domestic problems–on Wednesday told Armenia and Azerbaijan to end the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

"You should sit down and sign a document and take away you problems," Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin as telling the presidents of the two countries at the start of a summit of ex-Soviet states in the Kremlin.

Aliyev proposed that Yeltsin cooperate in the undertaking. Armenian President Robert Kocharian agreed with the suggestion–Interfax said.

Yeltsin has a reputation for trying to overcome seemingly intractable problems by the sheer force of his will and regularly tells Russia’s squabbling political forces to make up.

His technique has already had some success on the international stage.

He forced the pace in Russia’s tricky negotiations with the NATO Western defence alliance last year by suddenly announcing a deadline–and browbeat Swedish leaders in December into agreeing to a feasibility study on a pipeline to pump Russian gas to Sweden.

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