Aliyev Urges Greater Russian Role in Karabakh Talks

MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–Azerbaijan’s President Haydar Aliyev ended a three-day official visit to Russia on Saturday–calling for greater Russian involvement in efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

"We believe Moscow can play a decisive role in resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict," Aliyev said after talks with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Ivanov noted that Russia’s contribution to settling the dispute will come "both in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group and in bilateral relations," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Aliyev and other top Azeri officials accused Russia in the past of siding with the Armenia’s in the 14-year conflict and have even hinted at the possibility of seeking NATO’s military presence in Azerbaijan as a way of offsetting Moscow’s close military ties with Yerevan.

However–the 78-year-old former member of the Soviet Politburo spoke of an unfolding "strategic partnership" between Azerbaijan and Russia as he summed up his visit seen as another sign of improved relations between the two countries.

Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an economic development agreement valid until 2010 and resolved a long-standing dispute over a Russian missile tracking station on Azeri territory.

"We are going to try to raise our relations to the level of a strategic partnership," Aliyev told reporters–expressing "great satisfaction" with the outcome of his visit.

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