Azerbaijan Against Trade With Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Azeri President Haydar Aliyev said on Monday he has rejected an Armenian offer to swap energy for Azerbaijan’s hydrocarbons–Itar-Tass news agency reported. Aliyev was quoted as telling visiting US officials that his Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian proposed to supply electricity to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave in exchange for Azeri "oil products."

It was not clear when Kocharian made the offer. The two leaders have met three times in just over two months. Their latest meeting took place in the Ukrainian city of Yalta last week. They have both said the face-to-face contacts have improved prospects for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict.

"In the situation where 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory is occupied by Armenian armed forces–the population of Nakhichevan – no matter how much it needed electrical energy – would not accept those supplies–considering them immoral," Aliyev told Bill Taylor–a senior State Department official in charge of American aid to former Soviet republics. Taylor met the Armenian leadership in Yerevan before the talks in Baku.

Aliyev also said Azerbaijan will not participate in a Caucasus economic forum–organized by the US government and scheduled for October 10-11 in Tbilisi. He declared that Armenian-Azeri economic cooperation will be impossible before a solution to the Karabakh conflict. "Haydar Aliyev believes that the establishment of peace by means of economic cooperation is impossible despite the existing belief," ITAR-TASS said. Still–Aliyev added that the prime ministers of Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia could meet to discuss "regional issues," according to the Russian news agency.

The US takes the view that economic benefits would be a strong incentive for all conflicting parties in the South Caucasus to achieve peace. A "regional synergy" was the theme of a conference in Yerevan last March–organized Washington and attended by the US ambassadors to the three regional states countries–other diplomats and aid officials.

US diplomats then pledged more American efforts to help Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia put in place an adequate transport infrastructure and harmonized customs system. "We might find a formula to bring together the three countries despite continuing political differences," the US ambassador to Armenia–Michael Lemmon–told RFE/RL at the time.

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