Azeri Speaker Said to Suggest ‘Friendship Group’ With Armenian Mps

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The speaker of the Azerbaijani parliament–Murtuz Aleskerov–has called for the creation of an Armenian-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary "friendship group" to promote reconciliation between the two warring nations–according to Armenian lawmakers that visited Baku this week.

The four deputies were in the Azerbaijani capital for a regular session of the parliamentary assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)–a loose grouping of 11 states–including Russia–Ukraine and Turkey.

One of them–Victor Dallakian of the majority Miasnutyun faction–said Friday that Aleskerov floated the idea at a separate meeting with the visiting Armenian delegation. He said Aleskerov expressed readiness to pay an official visit to Yerevan at the head of an Azerbaijani parliamentary delegation.

But Dallakian added that the Milli Mejlis speaker rejected the Armenian proposal to begin commercial and other contacts before a solution is found to the Karabakh dispute–while accepting that Armenian-Azerbaijani economic cooperation is "inevitable."He contradicted himself," Dallakian told reporters on return to Yerevan.

Official Baku argues that the opening of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier for cargo transit and cross-border commerce would be a disincentive for Yerevan and Stepanakert to seek a peace settlement. The Armenian side and the European Union believe that such contacts would facilitate the search for peace.

The lawmakers said they were satisfied with the way they were received by Azerbaijani officials. "We were treated very well–the hospitality was on a high level," Dallakian said.

His colleague Manvel Badeyan–who also represents Miasnutyun–said the Armenian deputies even did some shopping in Baku–each of them buying a jar of Azerbaijani caviar "because it’s cheaper there."

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