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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Nagorno-Karabakh Must Remain Part Of Azerbaijan

Moscow, 9 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov had talks in Moscow today with his Armenian counterpart, Alexander Arzoomanian. Primakov said afterwards that Russia believes the conflict over the ethnic-Armenian enclave can only be resolved by respecting Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

Primakov added that Moscow remains "interested in the stabilization of the situation and the resolution of the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh through compromise." He said Russia supports Nagorno-Karabakh's right to self-determination and local self-rule, but only within Azerbaijan. Primakov cautioned that "there can be no other solution."

Primakov also reiterated Russia's opposition to last month's presidential elections in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian Foreign Minister Arzoomarian said the election was sanctioned by earlier agreements covering the region since "the Organization For Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh's right to send its own envoys to peace talks."

Fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, erupted eight years ago. The area is now controlled by Armenian forces and a ceasefire sponsored by the OSCE has been in effect since May of 1994.

In a related development, the Foreign Ministry of the self-declared republic of Nagorno-Karabakh issued a statement Friday condemning a declaration adopted last week at the Lisbon summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The document dealt with the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia had refused to agree to a demand from Azerbaijan that the OSCE formerly endorse Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, which would include the ethnic-Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh.

A last minute compromise proposed by the United States removed the disputed language from the summit declaration, but had it included in a separate document.

The separate document was issued Tuesday as a "declaration of the Chairman."

Our correspondent in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, says the Nagorno Karabakh's Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned this declaration and said it "reflects the interests of only of one of the sides in the conflict."

The statement said Nagorno-Karabakh "will continue to defend its right to self-determination and deems that right to be equal to the principle of territorial integrity of states." Our correspondent said Nagorno-Karabakh authorities expressed doubt "on the purpose of continuing participation in the 11-nation negotiating group on the issue, led by Russia and Finland.

Our correspondent says Armenia's deputy Foreign Minister, Vartan Oskanian, had said earlier in the day that the Armenian government would comply with the OSCE document But he had said Nagorno-Karabakh authorities had to explain their standing following the OSCE declaration.