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Baku Says Radar Issue Should Be Decided By Experts

Azerbaijan's Qabala radar station (file photo) (epa) September 20, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov says Baku is willing to collaborate with the United States and Russia to provide joint usage of the Qabala (Gabala) radar station.

However, Mammadyarov told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service today that the final decision should be left up to experts.

"On [September] 18, the day before yesterday, the group of experts of the United States, Russia, and Azerbaijan visited this radar station, and made their first assessment," Mammadyarov said. "It is too early and preliminary to talk about the outcome of the talks, because they need to continue negotiations in this trilateral format. We have also agreed that this, let's say, consultations will be continued. So now each side took back home more information about the station, and they need to do some more homework.

Azerbaijan is leasing its Qabala facility to Russia until 2012. Earlier this year, Moscow proposed the joint usage of the radar station to the United States, as an alternative to Washington's plans of building parts of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The United States says it needs the shield to counter potential missile strikes from rogue states, such as North Korea and Iran. Azerbaijan has a border with Iran in the south.

In the interview with RFE/RL, Mammadyarov spoke about neighborly relations and his country's political and economic ties with Iran.

According to Mammadyarov, Iran's large ethnic Azeri community plays a role in relations between the two countries. Iran also provides a land link between Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhichevan. Due to the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, Nakhichevan is otherwise unreachable by land from Azerbaijan.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, according to Mammadyarov, "should be solved within the norms and principles of international law."

In the interview, the Azerbaijani foreign minister said the ethnic Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, together with ethnic Azeri refugees from the disputed republic, should define their status jointly. He also said that Baku is willing to negotiate the "highest level of autonomy" for the republic.

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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