US Envoy Says Karabagh Talks Will Continue Despite Azeri Power Shift

YEREVAN (RFE/RL/Armenpress)-Domestic political uncertainty in Azerbaijan will not hamper international efforts to resolve the Mountainous Karabagh conflict–and may even gather fresh momentum later this year–according to US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway.

"We anticipate that these negotiations will continue with whoever is in office in Azerbaijan as a result of what we hope and expect will be constitutional processes–whether it is the election scheduled for October or some other process that intervenes in the meantime," Ordway said at a Tuesday news conference in Yerevan.

Prospects for a breakthrough in the Karabagh peace process appear uncertain now that Azerbaijan’s ailing President Heydar Aliyev seems to be handing over power to his politically inexperienced son Ilham. The latter was appointed prime minister on Monday–reinforcing the widely held belief that he will soon take charge of the Azerbaijani presidency. According to Ordway–Heydar Aliyev’s possible departure should not be a cause for concern as far as the Karabagh peace talks are concerned. He indicated that the US and the two other nations spearheading the process–Russia and France–may soon increase the pressure for a "long-lasting–durable settlement that is in the interest of both parties."

Ordway said the US recognizes the importance of the ceasefire agreement along the front lines in Mountainous Karabagh. "Irrespective of which political force comes to power in Azerbaijan–the US position regarding the resolution of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict will not change. We are following closely the developmen’s in Azerbaijan and are prepared to continue working with any elected force," Ordway said.

He added–"There isn’t going to be an accord until both sides sort out every detail and gain some common understanding of what is in their own mutual best interest. We will just have to see how that process develops as it picks up speed later in the year."

Washington said that it will accept the first dynastic succession in the former Soviet Union if it is the outcome of a clean presidential election. "The appointment of Ilham Aliyev–son of Azerbaijan’s president–as PM is fully consistent with the Azerbaijani constitution," said State Department spokesman Philip Reeker. "We look forward to working with newly appointed PM Aliyev on a broad range of issues concerning US-Azerbaijani ties–and we hope and expect that he will work for economic and democratic reform," Reeker said.

FAVORS OPENING TURKISH-ARMENIAN BORDERS

In addition to his commen’s regarding Karabagh and Azerbaijan–Ordway also spoke about the relationship between Armenia and Turkey. "We have openly voiced our position on the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. The US firmly stands for the improvement of relations between the two nations and this issue is a part of the US foreign policy agenda."

Ordway added that this issue was one of the topics discussed recently by Turkish and top US government officials. "We continue discussing it with Turkish officials and regret that it has not been resolved–but we hope that the Turkish-Armenian border will re-open in the future," he said.

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