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NKAO Talks Suspended Because of Lack of Progress

Vienna, July 9 (RFE/RL) -- International negotiators trying to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have suspended the talks until September, because of the lack of progress at recent meetings.

An unnamed spokesman for the Russian-Finnish co-chairmen of the negotiations described to RFE/RL a meeting in Stockholm last week as "extremely disappointing." Not only was there no progress on any substantive issue, the spokesman said, but some old issues which were apparently settled several months ago were revived. He said a meeting in Moscow last month was also disappointing, and addressed only relatively unimportant technical issues.

It is the second time this year the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations have been suspended by the co-chairmen because of lack of progress. The talks were halted at the end of March and did not resume until the meeting in Moscow June 14. The spokesman said there some bi-lateral discussions but no official negotiations.

The spokesman said the new pause will continue until "sometime in September." He said a date for resumption will be fixed after all sides have reviewed their positions. It is unclear whether there will be a session before Armenia's presidential elections September 23.

Last week's negotiations in Stockholm were attended by the eleven countries making up the so-called "Minsk group," which seeks a settlement of the conflict. Several delegates said afterwards they were disappointed at what they had seen and heard during the week of talks. The "Minsk group" does not normally attend the negotiations conducted by Russia and Finland with Armenia, Azerbaijan and representatives of the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The spokesman for the Russian-Finnish chairmanship said none of the three parties was willing to talk about substantive issues, much less discuss possible compromises.

He said Azerbaijan, in particular, opposed discussions on substantive issues. He said Azerbaijan surprised other delegates by raising procedural questions, most of which were believed to have been settled months ago. Azerbaijan revived the issue of whom should be represented at the talks, and the rights of the minority Azerbaijani population of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The spokesman said the suspension of the negotiations until September will also give Russia and Finland an opportunity to discuss future strategy.

Russia's long-time negotiator, Vladimir Kazimirov, will leave the negotiations at the end of this month to become ambassador to Costa Rica. His successor has not been announced. Kazimirov did not attend last week's meeting in Stockholm, although he was present at the meeting in Moscow last month.

The spokesman said Russia and Finland would like some sort of document to emerge from the negotiations before the December summit meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The negotiations are sponsored by the OSCE, which arranged a ceasefire, which has been in effect May 1994.

The spokesman said that what he called the "best hope" was that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh would agree on a so-called declaration of principles for a settlement to be presented to the OSCE summit. But he noted that previous efforts by Russia, the U.S. and the OSCE to persuade the parties to accept a declaration of principles had been unsuccessful.

Germany and France, which are members of the "Minsk group" announced after last week's meeting in Stockholm that they will send a team to Armenia and Azerbaijan in August to inspect the situation.