Russia’s Ivanov Begins Caucasus Visit

BAKU (Itar-Tass)–Prior to beginning talks with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev–visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov–who arrived in Baku Thursday–delivered a message from Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

According to the foreign ministry–in this message Yeltsin shared his views on issues of bilateral relations.

"We are long-standing and good neighbors–and we would like our relations to be conform to the interests of both countries," Ivanov stressed.

"Today I had detailed talks with Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov and Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Artur Rasizade," he informed.

"We did addressed such issues as military cooperation–problems of the Caspian Sea–and trade and economic relations. We consider it necessary to have more active relations between the defense ministries and law enforcement bodies of the two countries," the Russian leader stated.

Speaking on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–Ivanov noted that "we have been watching contacts between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia on this issue and believe that this direct way of a dialogue is the best one."

At the same time–Russia–being a member of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–is ready to take the most active role in the resolution of the conflict–Ivanov pointed out.

Touching on the state of affairs in the CIS–the minister stressed that "we are not satisfied with the state of affairs in the Commonwealth either–and therefore we are now going by way of reforms."

The foreign minister also spoke on the Russian military base in Armenia–saying–"we understand well how important this issue is both for us and the region as a whole."

"The location of the Russian military base in Armenia is actually the continuation of that military cooperation with Yerevan–which began several years ago," stressed Ivanov–adding that stationing of the Russian base in Armenia was not directed against Azerbaijan.

Aliyev said his country’s relations with Russia had always been friendly although they were "darkened by certain events and incidents."

Speaking on Russia’s participation in the Karabakh peace process–Aliyev noted that from the very beginning of the conflict the Russian Federation was and still remains the leading country in the process and has been playing a dominant role in the activities of the OSCE Minsk group.

"A serious obstacle on the way to the settlement of the Karabakh conflict is also unilateral military cooperation of Russia with Armenia–the strengthening of the military potential of the Russian Federation on the territory of this neighboring Caucasus republic and the location of the Russian military base there," said Aliyev

He expressed the hope that Igor Ivanov’s visit to Baku would mark the beginning of a new stage in Azeri-Russian relations.

Evidence of the fact that during talks with Azeri leaders–great emphasis will be placed on the resolution of the Karabakh conflict–was the presence of the new Russian Minsk Group Co-chairman Nikolai Gribkov.

According to a number of diplomatic sources–including the Azeri president’s entourage–the sides will also consider the situation in the Caucasus in connection with the latest events in Daghestan.


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