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Azerbaijan: President Criticizes Armenian-Russian Maneuvers

Baku, 4 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev has condemned a joint Armenian-Russian military exercise conducted last month in Armenia.

Aliyev met yesterday in Baku, the Azerbaijan capital, with representatives of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The group seeks to mediate a six-year-old conflict over Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Aliyev told the group that the military exercise, with leaders from Nagorno-Karabakh attending, raises questions about Russian sincerity as a mediator in the conflict.

The president said that the Azerbaijan embassy in Moscow has filed a protest note with the Russian Foreign Ministry. Aliyev said he phoned Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov to protest and condemn Russian military involvement with Armenia.

The three-day Russian-Armenian military exercise was held two weeks ago at a training ground 50 kilometers east of the Armenian capital, Yerevan. Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave in Azerbaijan bordering Armenia. Its ethnic Armenian majority has been seeking to break away from Azerbaijan since 1988