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Caucasus: Putin, Aliyev Hold Talks In Baku

Baku, 9 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the first day of a two-day official visit to Baku, has held talks with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. Few details have emerged from the meeting. But an official travelling with Putin said the two leaders were due to sign a pact guiding future bilateral ties. The official, Sergei Prikhodko, said both countries agree that relations need to be reactivated.

Russia and Azerbaijan enjoy generally good ties. But they have been strained partly over Azerbaijani suspicions that Moscow had sided with Armenia over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some 35,000 people died in Nagorno-Karabakh after the ethnic Armenian population of the enclave tried to break away from Azerbaijani rule in 1988.

Putin and Aliyev were due to discuss ways to reach a Nagorno-Karabakh peace agreement, which has proved elusive despite a 1994 ceasefire.

Russian and Azerbaijani officials also plan to discuss economic issues, especially the energy sector, as well as economic borders in the Caspian Sea.