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Armenia/Azerbaijan: Diplomats Still Working On Nagorno-Karabakh

Munich, 28 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Diplomats preparing for next week's European security summit in Lisbon are still hoping to negotiate a basic agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Diplomats in Lisbon told RFE/RL there is still a faint hope that agreement can be reached on a "declaration of principles" for a settlement. The diplomats told our correspondent that negotiators have been meeting in Lisbon all this week. They will continue trying to find a compromise until the two-day summit begins Monday.

The talks are being conducted by Russia and Finland as co-chairs of an eleven-country negotiating group created by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Diplomats said the United States, Germany and France are taking an active role in seeking an agreement. All three are candidates to replace Finland as co-chair of the negotiations next year.

Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan. Fighting erupted in 1988, after Stepanakert declared sovereignty. OSCE arranged a ceasefire in May 1994, but has been unable to convert it into a peace agreement.

Azerbaijan has said it will not allow independence for Karabakh, but is ready to grant Stepanakert a considerable degree of autonomy.

Diplomats in Lisbon said that if no agreement is reached, a statement will probably be inserted in the summit document, urging all sides to work constructively toward a settlement. Armenia and Azerbaijan has each distributed statements at the summit preparatory meetings, re-stating its position.