Azeri FM in Moscow: Nagorny Karabakh and Caspian on agenda

Agence France Presse — English
August 18, 2004 Wednesday 2:37 PM GMT

Azeri FM in Moscow: Nagorny Karabakh and Caspian on agenda


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the
conflict in the enclave of Nagorny Karabakh and the status of the
Caspian Sea had been top of the agenda of talks with his visiting
Azeri counterpart Elmar Mamedyarov.

Lavrov told reporters he was sceptical about the effectiveness of
international mediation to settle the conflict in Nagorny Karabakh,
an enclave in Azerbaijan with a majority Armenian population over
which Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a four-year war.

Russia “is ready to lend its aid (in the settlement of the conflict)
but no one can resolve the problem in the place of the two parties,”
he said.

The conflict has cost an estimated 35,000 lives and forced about one
million people on both sides to flee their homes.

A ceasefire was agreed in 1994, leaving Armenian forces in de facto
control of the enclave and surrounding Azeri regions. Azerbaijan has
said it is determined to force Armenian troops out of the territory.

Peace talks have been taking place intermittently for 10 years, under
the mediation of the Minsk Group (France, Russia and the United
States) to hammer out a permanent solution.

Mamedyarov, who said Azerbaijan saw its relationship with Russia as a
strategic partnership, meanwhile called for an “intensification of
diplomatic efforts” to find a status for the Caspian Sea.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1994 the five countries
bordering the sea have been in dispute over how to share its oil and
gas reserves, estimated to be the third largest in the world.

Iran and Turkmenistan says each of the five littoral states should
own 20 percent of the sea’s resources. But Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and
Russia say that the shares should reflect the length of the
coastline, which would leave Iran with only 13 percent.