Kocharian Aliyev Meet in Switzerland

DAVOS–Switzerland (Reuters)–Azeri and Armenian presidents–in Davos on the fringes of the World Economic Forum meeting–on Friday committed themselves to work harder for a resolution to the Karabakh conflict.

Presidents Haydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Robert Kocharian of Armenia’said before planned bilateral talks their countries were ready to compromise for peace.

"Settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is of vital importance to both Azerbaijan and Armenia," Aliyev said. "I believe that the direct negotiations–meetings and dialogue now going on between the two presidents are making progress towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict."

"We certainly will be having bilateral talks here. We’ve even fixed a time."

Added Kocharian: "The situation has matured to such an extent that both leaderships in Armenia and Azerbaijan now see a settlement necessary. Both nations are ready for compromises."

Prospects looked promising as the two men’sat next to one another on the podium during a panel discussion and appeared at ease–exchanging smiles and smooth words.

Despite the positive signs–major differences remain between the two states.

"Twenty percent of Azeri territory is occupied. One million Azeris have been driven out of their homes. We want a withdrawal of Armenian forces," said Aliyev. "We are for a peaceful settlement of this conflict."

Kocharian responded: "Had the Armenian forces not gone in–we’d have witnessed the deportation of the entire Armenian population from Nagorno-Karabakh. But we do want a settlement."

Isolated Armenia–which still has Russian troops on its soil and relies on Russia and Iran for arms supplies–needs the peace to win prosperity which only the West and an open border with Turkey can deliver.

"It is really up to us to make the southern Caucasus a crossroads. Will there be development in the region? It all depends on us," Kocharian told the session.

"All countries of the southern Caucasus and Central Asia must work together to stimulate our economies. We need to freeze military activity in this region. We need to implement economic projects. The rest will come naturally."

The renewed peace pledges from Aliyev and Kocharian come on the heels of a new mediation effort by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

French–Russian and US negotiators who make up the "Minsk" group of the OSCE met Aliyev in December on their first visit to Baku in a year after meeting Kocharian in Yerevan.

Also taking part in the session were Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ismail Cem–Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi–Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev and Kazakh Prime Minister Kassymzhomart Tokayev.

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