EU Calls for Cooperation in Southern Caucasus

STOCKHOLM (Reuters)–Foreign Minister Anna Lindh of Sweden–which holds the European Union presidency–on Wednesday called for Azerbaijan–Armenia and Georgia to cooperate to resolve simmering regional conflicts. In a statement released on the Swedish presidency’s website–Lindh pledged continued EU support for regional projects “on condition that each country agrees to take part together with its two neighboring countries.”

Lindh was in Azerbaijan on Wednesday on a tour of the southern Caucasus with EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana and external affairs commissioner Chris Patten. She urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to step up efforts to achieve a solution for Nagorno-Karabakh–a conflict-torn enclave in Azerbaijan where an ethnic Armenian majority tried to secede in 1998. "The EU supports the direct dialogue on the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia to find breakthrough in negotiations as soon as possible,” Lindh said.

Speaking in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi earlier on Wednesday–Lindh stressed the EU’s continued support for negotiations to solve conflicts in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. She also expressed concern over pressure being exerted on Georgia by Russia–which has cut natural gas supplies–imposing severe hardships–due to differences over the war in Russia’s separatist Chechnya republic–which borders Georgia.

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