Clinton Calls for Compromise in Peace Process

BAKU (Itar-Tass)–The United States is not planning to relax its peacekeeping efforts aimed at resolving the Karabakh conflict–said a special message sent by President Bill Clinton to the Azeri head of state–Haydar Aliyev.

The text of the message–which was circulated in Baku today–said that the United States would continue working with Russia and France–who co-chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation–to find such a solution to the problem that would comply with international norms and take into account the OSCE-adopted principles on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Clinton said he believes that to find an effective solution to the problem the sides to the conflict should take brave and extraordinary steps. He wrote that the main task for the Azeri and Armenian presidents and for the leadership of Nagorno Karabakh is to be able to reach a possible compromise on a final status for the region. To achieve this the sides may be required to take several steps aimed first of all at restoring confidence and at paving the way to achieve accord on the main issues–said Clinton’s message.

Clinton stressed that his country was prepared to support a direct dialogue between the sides in the conflict and also discussions within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. He also said that the US was interested in developing cooperation with Azerbaijan to rebuild economic relations in the Caucasus and to strengthen democratic institutions in the country.

Armenia Denies Secret Talks On Return Of Occupied Azeri Territories

Armenia has not held talks with Azerbaijan on the return of Azeri territories occupied during the 1991-94 war over Nagorno-Karabakh–a spokesman for President Robert Kocharian said on Monday–reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The Russian Interfax news agency reported on Saturday that the two hostile countries are currently discussing ways of returning five districts in Azerbaijan proper–controlled by Karabakh Armenian forces–under Baku’s control.

Citing unspecified Azeri "government sources," the agency said Defense Ministers Vazgen Sargsyan of Armenia and Safar Abiev of Azerbaijan discussed the issue on April 12 at a meeting in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The report said in exchange for that–Yerevan deman’s restoration communication routes crossing Azeri territory to Armenian cargoes. The Armenian-Azeri border has been closed since 1991.

"This report does not correspond to reality," presidential press secretary Vahe Gabrielian told RFE/RL. He said a meeting between the two defense ministers did take place but gave no other details. Officials in the Armenian defense ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Kocharian and Aliyev are scheduled to meet in Washington later this week during celebrations of NATO’s 50th anniversary. The Karabakh issue will top the agenda of the meeting–reportedly arranged by the US government.

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