Armenia Says Could Meet Azeri Leader Over Karabakh


March 13 2008

YEREVAN, March 13 (Reuters) – Armenia on Thursday said its newly
elected president was ready to meet his Azeri counterpart to discuss
Nagorno-Karabakh as mediators push for dialogue after the worst clash
in the disputed region for several years.

Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan said Russia, the United
States and France — who are mediators in the conflict — were pushing
for a meeting between president-elect Serzh Sarksyan and Azeri leader
Ilham Aliyev.

The first window of opportunity for Prime Minister Sarksyan, who was
elected president last month, would be at the NATO summit in Bucharest
next month, Oskanyan said.

"If there is such a proposal and if the Azeri side agrees to this,
then the newly elected president … is ready to participate in this
meeting," he told reporters at a news briefing in Yerevan.

Nagorno-Karabakh, a richly fertile area high in the Caucasus mountains,
broke away from Azerbaijan in the late 1980s, sparking a 1992-94 war
which killed about 35,000 people.

A ceasefire was agreed in 1994 but the search for a lasting peace is
stalled. The rebel territory is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians
and controlled by Armenia.

Both sides have given different accounts of shooting this month, in
which Armenia says eight people were killed. Azerbaijan has said about
20 people were killed, which would make it the worst clash in recent