BAKU: Resolution Of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Will Help Azerbaijan A

RESOLUTION OF NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT WILL HELP AZERBAIJAN ASSUME ROLE AS BRIDGE BETWEEN EU AND CENTRAL ASIA: AZERBAIJAN FOREIGN MINISTER

Trend News Agency
Jan 21 2008
Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, Baku, 21 January / corr Trend K.Ramazanova / The Resolution
of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh will help
Azerbaijan assume its role as a bridge between the EU and Central Asia,
according to Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister.

As the EU expansion moves further east, Central Asia, with its rich
oil and gas resources, is becoming increasingly important, the minister
said during an interview for The Wall Street Journal.

The EU must have a strong interest to develop stability and the economy
in a region that could play a central role in helping Europe meet its
energy needs. Closer relations with Azerbaijan can also be seen as
part of a European outreach to Central Asia, he said. "I believe that
Armenia would also benefit from regional integration and development,
and should look beyond the lingering conflict. The resolution of this
issue would not only improve our bilateral relations but could also
improve Armenia’s relationship with Turkey," Mammadyarov said.

"A European perspective of closer economic integration is as relevant
to the Caspian as is the partnership with Russia and China.

Azerbaijan is committed to pursuing all these links. However, a truly
regional framework hinges on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict, which is why this problem can no longer wait," he said.

The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began
in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since
1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan including
the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. In
1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which
time the active hostilities ended. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk
Group ( Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding peaceful
negotiations.

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