Saturday, May 05, 2007


The Associated Press
Published: May 4, 2007

RAMANI, Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan's president on Friday laid out what he said were basic principles for the resolution of his country's dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, angering Armenian leaders who disputed his suggestion that they have assented to the terms he described.

Aliev's remarks appeared more likely to deepen distrust between the nations than to bring them closer to resolving the dispute over the territory, which is inside Azerbaijan but has been controlled by Armenian and local ethnic Armenian forces since a six-year war that ended in 1994.

Tensions remain high between Armenia and Azerbaijan, former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, and more than a decade of coaxing from international media tors led by the United States, Russia and France has yet to bring an agreement on the status of the territory.

Aliev said the basic principles of a settlement were the unconditional return of seven districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh that are also under ethnic Armenian control and he return of refugees to Nagornko-Karabakh, followed by the determination of its political status.

Aliev, speaking to refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh in the settlement of Ramani, outside Azerbaijan's capital Baku, said there was general agreement on the principles, which he suggested were the basis for settlement talks shepherded by the international monitors.

Today in Europe Sarkozy increases his lead in France; Royal warns of unrestLabour set back in Scottish votingTurkish ruling offers possible solution The details of settlement talks are usually kept under wraps out of the concern that revealing them could hurt delicate efforts to resolve the dispute, which raises strong emotions in
both countries. Aliev said he was discussing them publicly because the Armenian side had broken confidentiality and made misleading statements.

His words drew a swift and angry response from Armenian officials, particularly sensitive about the issue ahead of parliamentary elections later this month, with parliament vice-speaker Vaan Ovannisian calling accusing him of "obvious lies."

"There is no such agreement," Ovannisian said.

Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian cast doubt on Aliev's statement that there was agreement on the unconditional return of all seven surrounding districts. In the past there have indications that Armenia would agree to the return of five of the districts on condition of independence for Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Let him say what he wants, we have already announce our position," Sarkisian said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Karapetian said that Armenia's position has been and remains "based on the recognition of the principle self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh," according to a ministry statement. "Other questions that are on the negotiating table, that are under discussion, are secondary and will follow from
recognition of the basic principle," he said.


Associated Press Writer Avet Demourian contributed to this report from Yerevan, Armenia.

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