Azerbaijan calls on EU to solve Karabakh dispute
By Sebastian Alison
Reuters AlertNet, UK
May 18 2004
BRUSSELS, May 18 (Reuters) – Azerbaijan called on the European Union
to help solve a long-running row with Armenia over the disputed region
of Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, apparently catching the EU’s executive
Commission off its guard.
The Commission this month added Azerbaijan, with Caucasus neighbours
Armenia and Georgia, to its New Neighbourhood programme, which seeks
closer ties with countries around the bloc following its expansion
eastwards on May 1.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev lost no time in challenging Commission
President Romano Prodi to translate this into action by asking the
EU to take a leading role in the conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a territory wholly inside Azerbaijan, populated
by Christian ethnic Armenians, which broke away from Baku’s rule as
the Soviet Union collapsed. The Azeris, their country controlling
large oil resources, want it back.
Prodi told journalists after meeting Aliyev that the EU had expressed
“our disposal to help if requested”. He insisted he could not give
details as no request had been made.
Not so, shot back Aliyev. “We already asked, and during today’s
meeting once again,” he said.
A ceasefire, ending a six-year conflict that killed about 35,000
people, has held for a decade. However, the Minsk Group of 11
countries, led by France, the United States and Russia under the
mandate of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
has so far failed to settle the problem.
Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president last year, backed the
Minsk Group but said he wanted more.
“Azerbaijan is very strongly interested that other important European
organisations, first of all the European Union, take a more active
stand,” he said.
“If Azerbaijan and Armenia are now in the New Neighbourhood policy, the
occupation by one country of the territory of another must be stopped,”
he added, demanding the immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops.
His remarks suggest the EU may face problems by rolling out the new
policy, which could mean “importing” several conflicts — notably
in Moldova, another New Neighbour, where a stalled war pitting
Romanian-speaking Moldovans against ethnic Russians has also rumbled
on for a decade.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress