Kocharian Aliyev Meet; Putin Supports Dialogue

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Reuters–Itar-Tass)–President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Haydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan held a meeting in Moscow Monday. Also attending the meeting was Russia’s Acting President Vladimir Putin. Following the meeting–Putin made a statement declaring Russia’s readiness to act as a guarantor if the Karabakh conflict is settled. This was announced by Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ara Papyan in a television appearance the same day.

Papyan went on to say that the three Transcaucasian leaders would meet with Russia’s Acting President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday morning. The meeting is expected to discuss problems of regional security. CIS prime ministers will be conferring simultaneously–and the CIS summit will begin in the second half of the day.

"Russia will continue to do everything possible to help resolve the very complicated problem of Karabakh," Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying after a Kremlin meeting with the presidents of the two Transcaucasus republics.

Putin said Kocharian and Aliyev were "totally resolved to achieve an agreement even if this problem is of the utmost difficulty for both countries."

Russia–he said–was ready to act as a guarantor for any agreement the two republics might clinch to end the conflict which erupted in the final years of Soviet rule.

The Itar-Tass news agency released a statement issued by Putin’s office Monday. The English translation of the statement is reprinted below:

Today’s meeting was a continuation of the direct Armenian-Azeri dialogue at the highest level which began in April 1999 in Moscow during the last CIS summit. Direct contacts between the Azeri and Armenian leaders have proved very effective. They have already achieved a great deal. Mutual trust is slowly growing between the parties to the conflict–they have exchanged prisoners of war and strengthened the cease-fire–regular meetings also have begun between the foreign and defense ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia. But most importantly–the leaders of the two countries are consistently seeking to find a compromise resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Russia decisively supports direct dialogue between Azeri President Haydar Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian. For its part–Russia is taking active measures to facilitate the search for such a resolution to the Karabakh problem that would satisfy all parties to the conflict. In the event of successful conclusion of talks–Russia would be ready to become a guarantor of such a compromise settlement. We play an active role in the OSCE Minsk Group which we co-chair together with the United States and France. Traditionally friendly relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia have enabled Russia to facilitate talks between Baku and Yerevan. This has been proven by today’s frank and substantive discussion between the leaders of the three countries. It was a useful exchange of views on the state of and prospects for a settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. An agreement was reached to continue contacts on this issue.

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