Talks On Nagorno Karabakh Dispute Break Up Without Progress

PARIS (combined sources)–Two days of negotiations between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan ended in Paris–without any concrete results being announced. At a delayed press conference in the Elysee Palace–President Jacques Chirac–who hosted the talks–announced that the meetings between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere–but added that at this stage of the negotiations no details could be disclosed.

The French president also voiced optimism that Armenia and Azerbaijan could achieve an agreement on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict during the current year. Prior to the Paris talks–Armenian President Robert Kocharian had also voiced a similar hope–and there was optimism on the part of most observers that some kind of an announcement would be made in Paris regarding progress in the talks.

However–nothing of substance was announced during the press conference–which was attended by the three presidents. Jacques Chirac–who seemed to be a little tense–announced at the outset that the press conference would be short–and asked for reporters’ understanding concerning the lack of information on details of the negotiations.

In answering questions–Chirac voiced satisfaction that both parties are willing to achieve a peaceful solution to the thirteen year old conflict. He also replied to a question about the purpose of the talks by saying that the meetings serve to further develop ties for the ultimate resolution of the conflict. He reiterated that France is working closely with other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group–especially Russia–to achieve progress in the peace process.

President Heydar Aliyev was asked by an Armenian correspondent why Azerbaijan endorses Chechen deman’s for independence or autonomy and opposes similar deman’s by the Armenia’s of Nagorno Karabakh. Aliyev replied that he never endorsed Chechen deman’s and he only agrees to upholding international law–which he stressed favors territorial integrity.

At this point–Robert Kocharian commented that it is sufficient to know how Azerbaijan has voted at the United Nations on the issues of Kashmir and Cyprus. It was obvious that the Armenian president was indirectly criticizing Azerbaijan for adopting double standards–in supporting ethnic rights for Moslems of Kashmir and Cypriot Turks while opposing the deman’s of Armenia’s in Nagorno Karabakh.

Kocharian had left Yerevan for Paris Sunday in a confident mood–telling the Interfax news agency: "The Karabakh conflict has a real chance of being settled." He warned–however–that "it would be premature to talk about new approaches at the moment."

For his own part–the Azeri leader–who left Baku for Paris on Saturday–had said this latest round of talks would focus on reaching a firm agreement. "We are going to talk to Kocharian about how to reach a firm agreement for resolving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in a peaceful way," Aliyev told journalists at Baku airport. "But when we will achieve the breakthrough–I cannot say," he added.

Aliyev returned from peace talks in Paris on Tuesday saying no progress had been made toward resolving the conflict and no solution was in sight. “There were no concrete results and I do not believe that the Minsk group of the OSCE is preparing new recommendations for us after the Paris meeting,” Aliyev told reporters at the airport on his arrival in the Azeri capital Baku.

Azerbaijan has rejected three proposals already offered by the group–and says it wants to see new ones. Aliyev said Azerbaijan “had no choice” but to continue the Minsk group talks. He added that Azerbaijan was at a disadvantage in talks because Armenian troops continue to occupy Karabakh and areas surrounding it.

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