Azeri Journalists Visit Karabakh And Armenia

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–A group of journalists from Azerbaijan–who are in Armenia by the initiative of the OSCE–visited the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on Wednesday. Bishop Paren Avetikian welcomed the guests on behalf of the Catholicos of All Armenia’s.

According to the Press Office of Holy Etchmiadzin–His Grace lauded the dialogue between the spiritual leaders of the two peoples in support of a peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azeri conflict. He considers the work of journalists very important in helping to establish a peaceful forum of interaction between the two nations–and he is hopeful that the visit of the Azeri journalists to Armenia would promote better relations between the two peoples.

During the meeting–the Azeri journalists asked questions about the construction of churches in Armenia and the relations of the Armenian Apostolic Church with other religious organizations.

The journalists also met with members of Armenia’s Parliament–including Chairman of Armenian Committee on Foreign Relations Hovanes Hovannissian–who is also the head of Armenian delegation to the Council of Europe. Hovannissian argued that Azeri press distorts the activity of Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations in the Council of Europe.

During the meeting Hovannissian reconfirmed his announcement at Council of Europe session that before the terrorist acts against US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya–Osama bin Laden had made 60 telephone calls to Baku. He said his statement was based on reliable US sources.

Hovannissian also stated that Armenian was ready to a renounce Azeri claims in the Council of Europe accusing Nagorno Karabakh of turning into a pathway for international drug trafficking and arms sale. He said that the government of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia had sent invitations to the Council of Europe and OSCE to monitor the region and see whether or not such actions were taking place there.

The journalist also visited Nagorno Karabakh–where the main impression was–"We now hope that the dialogue may succeed–and a compromise on the Karabakh conflict may be found." The results of the visit of the group of representatives of Azeri mass media to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh were discussed at Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs during a roundtable meeting with Armenian journalists on Tuesday.

The Azeri journalists said that in Nagorno Karabakh they managed to visit not only Stepanakert–but also Shushi and other regions. They regretted the fact that they could not visit Aghdam and that they were prohibited to take pictures of Lachin. However–as the journalists confessed–on their way back they did take some pictures of Lachin and their Armenian escorts did not protest. They said their communication with local people and especially their positive–and indiscriminate attitude made a strong impression on them. They were especially impressed with their meeting with Chairman of the "Union of Relatives of Missing Soldiers" non-governmental organization–Vera Grigorian. The journalists emphasized that "although the meeting was very hard–the atmosphere was warm."

They said their meeting with Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian was the hardest. Without going into detail–they said that nevertheless they felt a desire "to understand each other." Many journalists said that they had a constructive dialogue with Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian.

The two biggest issue discussed during the meeting at the Armenian Foreign Ministry were the refugee situation for both countries and the issue about the six regions controlled by the Karabakh troops. The discussion proceeded with cameras and microphones switched off–and both sides behaved properly. With all the clashes of opinions–the Azeri side was unanimous in one thing–before starting a dialogue–it is necessary that Karabakh troops should withdraw from the territories controlled by them. The Armenia’s defended the position that negotiations should be held without any pre-conditions because it is only through positive negotiations that a resolution can be reached.

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