Albright Convenes Caucasus Leaders Talks

WASHINGTON (AP)–The presidents of Georgia–Armenia and Azerbaijan met Sunday with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to try to start a healing process in the strife-torn Caucasus region.

Albright convened the meeting in hopes of getting the countries to begin a process leading to regional cooperation–an administration official said.

There was general agreement that the region cannot reach its economic potential without resolving underlying political issues–the official said on condition of anonymity.

He added that all three welcomed a proposal by Albright for joint training in ridding the region of land mines.

Attending the meeting were Presidents Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan–Robert Kocharian of Armenia and Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia. The meeting also included Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and leaders of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

All were in Washington to attend NATO’s 50th anniversary summit–which ended Sunday.

Delegations members from Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia could not be reached for comment.

Albright expressed regret that Russia–which is boycotting the summit because of its opposition to NATO’s airstrikes in Kosovo–was unable to attend the meeting. She was hopeful that Russia will play a constructive role in bringing stability to the region. The three Caucasus countries are all former Soviet republics.

Shevardnadze offered to host a follow-up meeting in Tblisi–the Georgian capital.

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