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Karabakh Negotiations Resume

Vienna, Helsinki, June 11 (RFE/RL) -- International negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resume in Moscow Friday, (June 14) although diplomats acknowledge there is little hope of real progress this year.

The Moscow talks will continue for one week, and will be followed by another week-long meeting in Stockholm beginning July 1. Negotiations were suspended at the end of March because of the absence of progress.

A spokesman (anonymous) for the co-chairs of the negotiating group, Russia and Finland, told RFE/RL today there was still no reason to believe any side was ready to make the compromises necessary for real progress. But he said a Russian-Finnish team which visited Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert last week found there was a genuine desire for a resumption of negotiations. The separate bi-lateral negotiations between senior advisors to the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan have also resumed. They met in Paris at the end of May.

The spokesman said the new negotiations in Moscow and Stockholm will focus on technical issues, rather than trying to reach a political settlement, which he said was "out of reach" at present.

The spokesman said that neither Russia nor Finland nor any other country in the eleven-nation negotiating group had any new proposals to offer on a possible political settlement.

The "technical issues" to be discussed include such things as drawing maps of proposed ceasefire lines and buffer zones, and defining a "no fly" zone from which military aircraft would be banned.

Diplomats associated with the negotiations tell RFE/RL that Russia insisted on holding the next meeting in Moscow, although it will coincide with the presidential election. They said President Boris Yeltsin and his team hoped that the resumption of talks in the Russian capital on the eve of the election would help bolster his image as a peacemaker.

The diplomats said upcoming elections in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh were among the reasons why no progress on a political settlement could be expected this year. Armenia holds presidential elections in September, and elections are expected in Nagorno-Karabakh in November.

The Moscow negotiations opening Friday will be limited to Russia and Finland and representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The Stockholm meeting, opening July 1, will be a so-called "consultative" meeting including all members of the eleven-nation negotiating group.

The Russian-Finnish team in Moscow will include the senior diplomats who visited Azerbaijan and Armenia last week. The Russian side includes Valentin Vadimovich Lozinsky and Vladimir Kazimirov. Finland will be represented by under-secretary of state Heikki Talvitie and negotiator Rene Nyberg.

The Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations are sponsored by the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). It negotiated the ceasefire, which has been in effect since May 1994, but has been unable to persuade Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to accept a permanent settlement of the dispute.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave inside Azerbaijan where most of the population is ethnic Armenians. The war erupted in 1988, after Stepanakert declared sovereignty. In the negotiations, Azerbaijan has insisted on retaining its territorial integrity, but says it is ready to grant Nagorno-Karabakh a considerable degree of autonomy.