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Azerbaijani, Armenian Leaders Avoid Contact At Summit

The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and five other ex-Soviet states meet in Yalta, Ukraine on July 10

The presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and five other ex-Soviet states meet in Yalta, Ukraine on July 10

YEREVAN -- The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan avoided face-to-face talks on the sidelines of an informal summit of seven former Soviet republics held in Yalta, Ukraine over the weekend, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian's office said the summit attendees discussed ways of boosting "economic integration" within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It reported no separate meetings between Sarkisian and other participants, who included Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russia President Dmitry Medvedev.

Sarkisian and Aliyev have often used CIS summits for negotiations on the conflict over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Sarkisian spokesman Armen Arzumanian told RFE/RL ahead of the summit that no such meeting was planned at Yalta.

Aliyev and Sarkisian last met on June 17 in St. Petersburg, for talks hosted by Medvedev. That meeting was followed by the most serious Armenian-Azerbaijani cease-fire violation in Karabakh in more than two years, which heightened tensions between the conflicting sides.

Four Armenian soldiers and one Azerbaijani soldier were killed in fighting on the region's "line of contact" the night of June18.

The United States, Russia, and France have urged both sides to exercise restraint and iron out their differences on a framework peace accord proposed
by the OSCE's Minsk Group. They hope to broker further progress in the negotiating process at an meeting this week in Almaty, Kazakhstan between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers.

However, recriminations traded between Baku and Yerevan in recent days have thrown doubt on the chances of a successful Almaty meeting. The Armenian Foreign Ministry on July 9 strongly denied Azerbaijani claims that the Almaty talks will focus on details of an Armenian troop withdrawal from Azerbaijani territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh.

A spokesman for Bako Sahakian -- the leader of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic -- said today that the authorities in Stepanakert have no expectations from the Almaty meeting because of Azerbaijan's "extremely nonconstructive" position.

Davit Babayan told RFE/RL that "[Baku's position] leaves no room for the search for a mutually acceptable compromise solution."

Babayan pointed to the Azerbaijani leaders' insistence that the principle of territorial integrity take precedence over that of peoples' self-determination as championed by the Armenian side.

"They must understand one thing," Babayan said. "For Karabakh, a return to 1988, in terms of both the status and territory, is out of the question."