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Armenia/Azerbaijan: French Ready For Role In Karabakh Negotiations

Prague, 13 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - The spokesman for France's Foreign Ministry, Jacque Rummelhardt, says the visit to Paris of Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev is another indication of France's interest in the Caucasus region. Rummelhardt today told RFE/RL that Aliyev's visit is important for strengthening political, economic and cultural ties between France and the Caucasus.

The spokesman said that France -- in its new role as a co-chair of international negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute -- will try to find a peaceful and lasting solution. France this month succeeded Finland as co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) negotiations on the Karabakh dispute. The other co-chair is Russia.

Speaking as he welcomed Aliyev, French president Jacques Chirac said that France is ready to work to help find a solution between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, a "solution which is fair to both countries which are our friends".

Rummelhardt says France will try to narrow differences among the sides. An OSCE-arranged ceasefire has been generally honored for more than two years, but a permanent settlement has not be achieved.

The ethnic Armenian enclave is in Azerbaijan, but has been ruled by ethnic Armenian forces since fighting broke out in the enclave in 1988. A ceasefire has been in place since 1994, but negotiations have failed to produce a final settlement.